Daventry district D-Day veteran presented with French medal of honour at village ceremony

Roland Webb
Roland Webb

A Staverton war veteran was presented with France's highest military and civilian honour medal at a special ceremony in his home town, after his neighbour applied for it on his behalf.

Roland Webb, 91, is one of 5,500 D-Day heroes to be awarded the Légion d’Honneur after President Hollande announced on June 6, 2014 on the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings that all British soldiers involved in the operation would receive one.

Mr Webb's medal

Mr Webb's medal

Mr Webb, who has lived in Staverton his entire life, joined the Somerset 4th Light Infantry in 1943 aged 18 and advanced across France, Belgium, Holland and Germany up until the war's end in 1945.

His medal was presented at the Staverton Flower and Produce festival on Saturday, August 26 by the vice-chairman of the Parish Council Tony Glover.

Tony, a neighbour of Mr Webb's, said: "He told me he was in the war, at which point in 2014 the French brought out the 70 year commemorative medal and were awarding them to British and Commonwealth troops.

"So I said to him 'would you be interested?' and he said 'no, I don't need one of those'. And then his wife Lucy said 'yes you do, that would be nice!' So I applied and it came through."

Tony suggested two options to his neighbour: travel to France to receive his medal or go to the French Embassy in London to collect it.

Mr Webb refused saying he did not want to go to the capital, and that he went to France once and was shot at.

It was then decided by Tony and others to incorporate the ceremony with the village's flower and produce show. After handing out the prizes to the various winners Mr Webb, to his surprise, was introduced to the crowd who were told he was a quiet and humble war hero.

"Everyone was very pleased that he received it," said Tony.

"He was surprised because he didn't realise it was being presented to him then, and he was almost in tears."

He added: "When we gave him his medal he was thrilled to bits."

Having spoken to him since Tony reported Mr Webb was very pleased that people had gone through the trouble to set up the ceremony, saying that he did not deserve it and was only doing what was expected of him.

Tony sent the application for the medal to the French Ministry of Defence on behalf of his neighbour. After it was approved Mr Webb received a letter addressed to him and signed by the French Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Sylvie Bermann.

It read: "I have the pleasure of informing you that the President of the Republic has appointed you to the rank of Chevalier in the Ordre national de la Légion d’Honneur.

"I offer you my warmest congratulations on this high honour in recognition of your acknowledged military engagement and your steadfast involvement in the liberation of France during the Second World War.

"As we contemplate this Europe of peace, we must never forget the heroes like you, who came from Britain and the Commonwealth to begin the liberation of Europe by liberating France.

"We owe our freedom and security to your dedication, because you were ready to risk your life."