French consul presents patient Ray with Legion d’honneur
D-Day veteran Ray Mellors, a patient at Nottinghamshire Hospice, has been awarded France’s highest honour – the Legion d’honneur – at a ceremony at the hospice.
Jean Claude Lafontaine, Honorary Consul for France in the East Midlands came to the hospice to invest Ray, 93, with the medal, the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits. The visit was kept as a surprise for Ray, who took part in the Normandy landings 75 years ago.
Ray, who landed on Sword beach in Normandy three days after D-Day in 1944, said: “I knew something was happening today but I had no idea it would be this big. I’m really honoured. I’ll treasure this, not just for me but for those who didn’t make it back.”
Ray, with others from the South Staffordshire Regiment, was heavily involved in the liberation of Caen before moving further into France and on to Belgium. He later joined Blackwatch regiment and took part in the Rhine crossing.
Before pinning the medal on Ray, the Consul said: “This is a tremendous opportunity to say thank you to Ray and to his generation for what they’ve done. It is a way to celebrate the heroes of our society and to celebrate Ray’s bravery in World War II to make us free.
“I believe you have visited the place you landed, and the place you liberated, Caen. For anyone who has visited Caen we can appreciate how hard it must have been and how much we owe you.”
Ray’s daughters Sharon and Carol came to the hospice for the ceremony, Carol said: “It was a wonderful occasion for Dad and indeed us, we are very proud of him and he revelled in all the attention.”
Ray went back to Normandy in the summer on a remembrance tour of the Normandy beaches organised by the Royal British Legion. It was the first time he had been back to France since taking part in the D-Day landings, and he was given a hero’s welcome by French villagers who came out to greet him and the other veterans. While there, he placed a wreath on Grimbosq Bridge, the spot where he lost a close comrade.
Jo Polkey, Director of Care at Nottinghamshire Hospice, said: “We are proud to host the French Consul at the hospice today and it’s been a privilege to see Ray receive this prestigious honour in recognition of his service 75 years ago.
“We always encourage patients to explore and capture their memories to create a legacy for family members. Ray’s trip to Normandy in the summer was a great opportunity to rekindle memories and the Consul’s visit today was a wonderful way of celebrating Ray’s contribution and bravery all those years ago. We are immensely proud to have been able to facilitate this for Ray here today and even more proud of what it means for Ray and those who did not return from the war.”