D-Day tank driver Derek, 90, is awarded French military honour
PUBLISHED: 11:34 03 January 2016
A veteran from Sidmouth who drove tanks during World War Two has been honoured with France's highest military honour.
Winslade Road resident Derek Pedder, 90, received the Legion d’honneur as part of the country’s tribute to military personal who served during the conflict.
Derek was 19 when he arrived in Arromanche as part of the second wave of D-Day invasions on June 6, 1944.
The London-born veteran was a member of the Royal Tank Regiment and had to wait for the beach to be cleared before the vehicles could roll into Normandy.
Derek said: “I wasn’t old enough to join, so I said I was older and I did that because I wanted to be in the tanks.
“There was a regimental sergeant major in charge and he just walked up and down the beach as if there was no war on in the background. It was unbelievable.”
Derek said that, inside the tank, soldiers wore headphones because of the noise of the ammunition and that they would feel the recoil.
He added that when driving the tank, the driver would have to look through a little slot which measured 10 to 12 inches long by four to five inches high.
Derek’s wife, Madeleine, was born in Paris and recalled hearing whispers about the arrival of Allied troops.
She said: “I do remember D-Day when all the adults around me in Paris were whispering ‘les Anglais ont débarqué’ [the English have landed] - news probably heard on clandestine radios.”
A week after D-Day, Derek’s regiment took part in the Battle of Villers-Bocage. The battle saw large casualties and losses, including many of his comrades.
Madeleine said: “The whole town was left in ruins.”
Derek was transferred to a new regiment after the battle and travelled through Belgium and Holland.
After the war, he went on to obtain the rank of major in the Territorial Army.
Derek said he was ‘very pleased’ to receive the honour.