A D-Day veteran who survived eight perilous trips to the Normandy beaches was presented with France’s top honour on Friday, the Legion d’Honneur.
Edwin “Ted” West (92) received the award from French Honorary Consul Jean-Claude Lafontaine, who spoke of his nation’s gratitude for the Royal Navy veteran’s role in liberating France during the Second World War.
County Royal British Legion (RBL) chairman Tony Goodwin summed up the man and his actions in three words: “Ted West hero.”
Mr Goodwin read a pen portrait of Ted, written by the veteran’s daughter, Beverley West, who was there with brother Alan and other members of the family to see the Legion d’Honneur pinned to his chest beside a row of gleaming medals.
Ted said: “It’s wonderful ... I didn’t expect anything like this.”
He was 18 when his landing craft first sailed to Omaha beach. It was a 300-mile round trip from Milford Haven.
Ted was the only electrician on board and his duties included setting the magnetic field that kept the craft safe.
Hazards on those crossings included floating and magnetic mines, aerial attacks and e-boats with torpedoes.
Beverley wrote: “Each landing was met with gun fire and shelling, the noise overwhelming.”
Bodies floated in the water, along with the debris of boats, and mines washed up on the beaches.
Ted had to wade through it all to pick up the wounded to take them to an American hospital ship.
Last year Ted and fellow veterans returned to the beaches with the help of the RBL and Beverley said: “It was an emotional time for him and others triggering flashbacks and horrific memories.”
Sadly, Ted’s dearly loved wife, Betty, passed away last year after the couple enjoyed a wonderful marriage spanning 70 years. Ted has two grandchildren, a brother Reg and sister Margaret Ralph.
• When Ted went away to war, he wrote a moving poem, “When We Come Home”. His mum kept the original safe in her purse until the day she died ... and his family had a pictorial version of the poem put in a frame for the 60th anniversary of D-Day.
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