Legion d’Honneur for D-Day veteran who helped destroy seven tanks

A D-Day landings veteran who was part of a team that destroyed seven enemy tanks and disabled two others has been recognised with France’s highest military honour.

John William Bray, 97, of Albrighton, who is known as Bill, was 17 when he signed up.

It was his 24th birthday on June 6 1944, the date of the famous landings.

He was a tank driver on Sword Beach and later took part in major campaigns, including being part of the Allied Forces crossing the Rhine in Germany in 1945.

Speaking of the D-Day landings, Mr Bray said: “It was really one of the most awful things I have ever seen. I’ll put it like that.

“When I think of my mates down there, well, I don’t think they would have known much about it when they died.

“But it is great to receive this recognition and I’m proud of what we did there.”

Part of A Squadron in the Staffordshire Yeomanry, Mr Bray was awarded the ‘Ordre national de la Légion d’Honneur’ at a special ceremony at RAF Cosford last Wednesday. Joined by his family and friends, Mr Bray was presented with the honour by Station Commander and Group Captain Tone Baker who said: “It is an absolute honour and privilege to be presenting this prestigious award to Mr Bray.

“As many of you here will know, service men and women could not do their job without the help and support of their friends and family, and so I thank you all for showing your support here today.”

Mr Bray’s daughter, Heather, 69 of Newport said: “I think dad is absolutely wonderful. We’re so proud of him and everything he has done.

“When he joined up, he didn’t come home for four years. He travelled all over, from Egypt to Palestine to East Africa. He was in the cavalry too and we have precious photos of him on his horse.

“He never really talks about what he saw or went through, but he did say to me once out of the blue that it was the most awful thing he had ever seen, the landings.”

Mr Bray’s latest medal now sits proudly along his five other service medals.

Chris Wilson, squadron leader, added: “I think we are all immensely proud of the contribution Mr Bray has made to the forces and I’m so happy to meet him today.”

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