A war veteran who was part of the D-Day landings marked his 98th birthday by being presented with the highest military honour from the French Government.
Willie Riley, from Brighouse, was awarded the Légion d’ Honneur at the Allied Air Forces Memorial and Yorkshire Air Museum along with 21 veterans of the Normandy “D-Day” Invasion campaign of June 1944
The Museum & Memorial has hosted three such ceremonies since April 2015, but this is by far the largest, with veterans attending from as far afield as Lincolnshire and Morpeth in Northumberland, and including Newcastle, Sunderland, Manchester, Leeds, York, Doncaster and Wetherby.
Museum Director, Ian Reed, commented: “This is a historic and increasingly rare event with these very special people who represent a fast decreasing number of veterans from a period of our past history which still affects us to this day.
“It was as we were expecting, a very emotional time for all the veterans, as they remember many lost colleagues and friends, but a day also of pride, particularly for the many family members supporting them on this special day.
Mr Riley was a medical orderly attached to 34th Field Dressisng Station.
The applause for each veteran in turn, and indeed the spontaneous standing ovation was warm, heartfelt and thoroughly deserved.”
He landed on Juno beach on D-day in support of the Canadian third Division and served with the unit until Christmas 1944.
The presentation took place in the impressive setting of the Yorkshire Air Museum’s Main Display Hangar, with the stunning visual backdrop of the World War 2 Halifax bomber, and other historic aircraft.
The recreated Halifax bomber named “Friday the 13th”, the only example in Europe, was a very symbolic backdrop, as the original aircraft, along with Halifax bombers flown by French aircrew from their wartime base of RAF Elvington, took part in daring raids on the Normandy coast in the build up to and progression of the invasion campaign.
The Légion d’Honneur was presented to the veterans on behalf of the French Government by the French Consul to Yorkshire, Mr Jeremy Burton and Colonel Bruno Cunat, who is the French Liaison Officer to the Ministry of Defence, based in London.