France’s top military honour for Spalding hero Tom

FRENCH HONOUR: Tom Fowler receives the Legion d'honneur from Jean-Claude Lafontaine at The Lighthouse Church, Spalding.  Photo (TIM WILSON): SG230116-149TW.
FRENCH HONOUR: Tom Fowler receives the Legion d'honneur from Jean-Claude Lafontaine at The Lighthouse Church, Spalding. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG230116-149TW.

Recognition for the ultimate responsibility of fighting for king and country has finally come for Spalding D-Day veteran Tom Fowler (96).

The former milkman who served with the 4th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment during World War II was presented with France’s highest honour during a ceremony at The Lighthouse Church, Spalding, on Saturday.

Mr Fowler, of Wygate Road, Spalding, was joined by his wife Gwen, family and guests for the presentation of the Legion d’honneur by French honorary consul Jean-Claude Lafontaine.

The Legion d’honneur, established in 1802 by French military leader Napoléon Bonaparte in recognition of both military and civilian service, is the equivalent of an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in the UK.

Mr Fowler, who served in Norway and Iceland before he was wounded by a mortar shell during the Battle of Fontenay in June 1944, said: “It was special to have my family here with me and to have seen so many people here as well made me so proud.

“It brought back a lot of memories of 1944 and I’m pleased to see that the memories are being kept alive by me being given this medal.

“The thing I probably remember the most was when our craft landed in Normandy and, within a short while, we were fighting the Nazi German army.

“The mortars came over the trenches six at a time and one of them landed near me which put me in hospital.”

Guests at the medal ceremony included South Holland and the Deepings MP John Hayes, South Holland District Council leader Coun Gary Porter, deputy leader Coun Nick Worth, chairman Coun Francis Biggadike, vice-chairman Coun Rodney Grocock and Spalding town centre manager Dennis Hannant.

Mr Hayes said: “People who risk their lives in a noble cause are heroes and how wonderful it is that the government and people of France have recognised this.”

Coun Porter said: “It’s really good that the French people have recognised the sacrifice men like Tom Fowler made and it’s a day Spalding can look back on for a few years to come.”

After presenting the medal, Mr Lafontaine said: “It’s an amazing opportunity to say thank you to Tom Fowler who came to France nearly 70 years ago and was ready to give his life in a way that we will never forget.”