The family of former Dorset soldier Harry Carter flew in from New Zealand to see him receive France's highest military honour alongside fellow veteran Greg Hayward. Greg served in the RAF and lives in Corfe Mullen. The French Consul Madame Josette Lebrat presented the two men with their awards at a ceremony at the Grand Hotel in Harry's home town of Swanage.
Harry Carter (on the right in the photo) was 18 when he embarked for Normandy. He was engaged in carrying signals equipment and ammunitionup to the Battalion and, on occasion, returning with wounded soldiers. He was closely involved in the action at Eterville, Maltot and Hill 112.
On the way back from one of these sorties he stopped to pick up a wounded soldier when his carrier was heavily mortared. Harry was concussed and completely disorientated. He was evacuated from the scene and repatriated. In late September 1944 he returned to the Battalion, serving to the end of hostilities.
Harry and his wife lived in Corfe Castle before retiring to Swanage. Harry worked at Winfrith as a computer operator andserved in Local Government as a Councillor for many years - becoming vice-Chairman of the District Council. On retirement he drove the Community Bus, thus continuing his record of public service. He and his wife Audrey are due to celebrate their 70th Wedding Anniversary later this year.
Harry said: “I'm very pleased and proud. I'd like to think that the award embraces the whole of the Regiment. I think of those chaps who went and never came back. I'm so lucky. I am really. My home was in Oxfordshire. I enlisted there and I've never been back since. It's always been Dorset for me. I love it.”
Harry's Grandson Simon Murray flew in from New Zealand with his family. He said he was immensely proud of Harry and in awe of both men. “I'm choked, incredibly proud. I think the thing you realize is we're not all here together for very long, life is short. The thing I just can't believe is my Grandad over there, he went to war at 16 and a half. I mean, bloody hell. It just really makes you realize that they lived in a different world. It's very very humbling. If I can live my life and be half that man, then I'll have done well. It's bloody amazing. It could bring a tear to your eye really easily. It's very rare that as a man you stand in a room and you're in awe of all the men around you and that's how I feel today. It's just amazing.”
Greg Hayward (standing to the left of Madame Josette Lebrat in the photograph above) was a leading Aircraftsman in the RAF, joining in Bournemouth as an Engineering apprentice in 1942 at the age of 16. At 18 he joined 146 Typhoon Squadron 2nd Tactical Air Force which moved to the Advanced Landing Ground at St Croix sur Mer soon after D Day, in late June 1944. He was engaged in servicing Hawker Typhoon Aircraft. There were about 100 such aircraft supporting the British and Canadian Armies. Greg stayed with the same unit through France, Belgium and Holland, finishing the war near Bremen in Northern Germany. Greg lives with his wife in Corfe Mullen.
Greg said: “It's all very fresh in my mind. I can remember all the details as if it were yesterday. It makes me think back to that time and my colleagues who didn't come back. They're still in Belgium and I do think of them.”
Organiser Major Nick Speakman from the Keep Military Museum in Dorchester said: “The Legion d'honneur is the highest French award. For these veterans, in their old age, it's wonderful to see that their time in Normandy was recognised. It's very special to them and it's special to us. Certainly I got a lot of pleasure just seeing the joy in their faces and the appreciation of their family members that this occasion has taken place.”
Claire: 22nd Mar 2016 15:00:00