Sidmouth veteran honoured with Legion d’honneur
- Credit: Archant
A Sidmouth veteran who was one of the many brave soldiers to land at Normandy on D-Day has been awarded France’s highest military honour.
John Gardiner, of Pathwhorlands, has been awarded the Legion d’honneur for his actions during World War Two.
Speaking to the Herald, the 92-year-old shared his memories from when he was in the army.
John started his training when he turned 18. He was then sent on his first mission to Normandy on June 6, 1944.
John said: “So many people lost their lives crashing in the gliders, so they sent us in on boats.
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“I didn’t know what I was going to see when I got there.
“When we arrived there were lots of bodies in the sea. I had never seen anything like that before.”
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John said they spent a number of months holding the area until they were able to advance and push the Germans back.
After he returned home, he was given more training and despatched again on Christmas Eve.
“The Germans had broken through the line with their tanks and pushed the Americans back,” said John.
“They said they needed our best troops to push them back over the Dutch boarder, so we were sent in.
“It was freezing cold but we managed to push them back up across the border and held that position until we were relieved by British troops and flown home.”
John said that, for his third and final mission, he was sent to Hamminkeln in Germany.
He added they were tasked with blowing up a railway line junction to stop German provisions and troops getting to the front line.
“We then had to push through Germany, avoiding enemy soldiers, until we got to the Baltic coast,” said John.
“We then waited there to meet up with the Russians.”
John’s granddaughter Kate Jamieson, 27, said she helped her grandfather fill in an online form when she discovered Legion d’honneur medals were being awarded to those who were at Normandy on D-Day.
She added: “My granddad played a big part in the war.
“I thought it would be a nice way for him to get recognition for all he did.”