French medal for veteran, 92

92 year old Normandy Veteran Eric Ingham, pictured with his medal.
92 year old Normandy Veteran Eric Ingham, pictured with his medal.

A Normandy veteran from Skegness, who survived a torpedo boat strike, has received a French Legion of Honour medal.

Eric Ingham, 92, was among the 156,000 British, American and Canadian troops who took part in the D-Day landings.

“I wonder if there are any others from the area who got the medal – or if I’m the only person in Skegness with one,” he said. “Getting this medal made me think of others who didn’t survive and those who are no longer with us.”

Despite his age, Eric can still recall his role in one of the most pivotal events of the Second World War.

Working as an RAF radar operator, Eric worked to intercept hostile planes and was on board a ship protecting Allied forces landing on Omaha and Utah beaches. The ship was attacked and sunk by German torpedo, leaving Eric floating at sea with a lifebelt. But he said he survived “without a scratch”.

The mental torment, however, was all too real, with Eric describing how he can vividly remember seeing bodies of fallen soldiers – including the harrowing experience of losing five of his friends.

Speaking to the Standard in 2014 for the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Eric said: “Seeing bodies floating all around the boat was one of my most horrific memories, and yet the next day we were eating sandwiches and continuing our work, as there was no other choice but to get on with it.

“One of my best memories was being rescued after being torpedoed.

“Normandy (D-Day) was also my worst memory of the war, especially the night before. But having your life saved is an exhilarating experience.”

Last year, the French Government announced it was to award D-Day veterans with the medal, to recognise their selfless acts of heroism and determination. The honour, known in full as the National Order of the Legion of Honour, is the highest decoration in France and was set up by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 with the motto ‘Honour and Fatherland’.

The French Government’s letter reads: “We must never forget heroes like you. We owe our freedom and liberation to your dedication, because you were ready to risk your life.”

Eric has been married to Muriel for 62 years. They have lived in Clarendon Road, for 52 years. They have a daughter and a granddaughter.