OPINION: It’s an honour to report on Sheffield’s true heroes

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Heroes. It’s a word we use a lot, but never has it been more justified than it is today.

Because that is the only word that can begin to do justice to the men who grace the front page of our paper today.

These men - now all in their 90s - helped to liberate a nation from Nazism during the Second World War.

The Sheffield and Doncaster heroes landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day and fought to protect our country, our freedoms and our lives while laying their own on the line.

They fought for the freedom of millions of people in Europe.

They fought in order to try to put an end to the tyrannical terror and the horrors of the Nazi regime during its march across the continent.

They might be eight of the most important men in Europe.

For their efforts helped win the battle on the beaches that turned out to be one of the most decisive in the entire war effort, and was a vital step along the way to the Nazi regime’s ultimate capitulation.

Today, we are so very proud to be able to report that these men have been handed the highest military honour in France, the Légion d’honneur.

It is only right that we honour the amazing contribution that these men made, and it should fill every Sheffielder and every Doncaster resident with pride that France has recognised their valiant heroism, too.

On their 21st birthday, most youngsters are out in the city centre, having a laugh with their friends, drinking one too many beers and enjoying the times of their lives.

That’s made possible because people like Doug Austin gave up his 21st birthday, on July 23, 1944, to spend it in Normandy, preparing to put his life on the line once more.

He wouldn’t have been sure he’d reach his 22nd.

It’s vital that we all stop to consider the sacrifice that Doug and all five of these men made on a daily basis for years of their lives.

It’s also crucial that we pass on these stories to our children, and our grandchildren, so that their stories continue to be told and their sacrifices continue to be honoured.

All we can say is thank you. Thank you, Cyril Elliott, Doug Austin, Les Giles, Bill Hartley, Ken Johnson, Patrick Strafford, Charlie Hill and Doug Parker, for what you did for Sheffield and the country as a whole.

And not just these men: we say thanks to every soldier on that front line, everyone who gave their lives, and every man, woman and child who helped the war effort – and not just then, but through every conflict.

It will never be forgotten.