Sheffield D-Day hero posthumously awarded French Legion of Honour medal

Wallace Kitchin
Wallace Kitchin
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A Sheffield World War II veteran who played a key role in the D-Day landings has been posthumously awarded a French Legion of Honour medal.

George Wallace Kitchin, who died last December at the age of 88, knew that he had been nominated for the honour by his family – but did not live to find out he had been officially granted it.

Susan Dyson is pictured with her father Wallace Kitchin's Legion D'Honeur medal from the French government.

Susan Dyson is pictured with her father Wallace Kitchin's Legion D'Honeur medal from the French government.

Mr Kitchin, who was known by his middle name, signed up to the Navy in 1942 at the age of 16 after telling his parents he was going shopping and then lying to recruiting officers about his age.

Wallace first served at sea on HMS Melbreak and then in submarine HMS Sturdy before joining the Navy Special Services.

He parachuted in behind enemy lines with four comrades in Normandy three days before D-Day.

Wallace, who was still a teenager, and the rest of the group had the special mission of getting to the cliffs above Omaha beach where they helped direct shell-fire.

Wallace Kitchin, second from right, with other members of The Royal British Legion Frechville branch at the Crystal Peaks Armistice Day Parade  in 2009.

Wallace Kitchin, second from right, with other members of The Royal British Legion Frechville branch at the Crystal Peaks Armistice Day Parade in 2009.

He was a radio operator whose role was to relay messages to the arriving landing forces.

One of the group was killed during the dangerous mission.

Wallace’s daughter Susan Dyson said she was fortunate enough to be able to tell her father he was being nominated for the honour a couple of days before he died.

She said: “Just before my dad passed away, we received a letter saying his details had been passed on to the French Embassy for him to go forward for this award.

Wallace Kitchin as a teenage naval recruit

Wallace Kitchin as a teenage naval recruit

“I got a letter two days before he passed away and read it out to him saying it was sent off and I told him he was going to get one.”

She added: “Although he knew that his application was being progressed he did not live to hear that he had received the award. He was a very proud D-Day veteran and a long time supporter of the British Legion.

“He would have loved to have been able to travel to London to receive the medal from the French Ambassador.”

Had Wallace still have been alive, he would have been presented with his medal in September alongside 15 other British veterans who played key roles in the liberation of France.

HMS Melbreak, the ship Wallace Kitchin served on

HMS Melbreak, the ship Wallace Kitchin served on

Their medals were presented to them by French Veterans Minister Jean-Marc Todeschini at a special ceremony in London.

Mr Todeschini said: “To these men, France owes its liberation.

“We will never forget their bravery over 70 years ago, which led to freedom and peace in France and across Europe.”

Susan said her father’s medal instead arrived by post just a few days before Armistice Day and shortly before the terrorist attacks on Paris.

Wallace, who was born in Lincolnshire and grew up in Retford, returned to civilian life shortly after the war ended and went on to marry Jean Dawson, who he had met at a local dance.

The couple had six children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren and were married for more than 60 years before Jean’s death in 2013.

The family moved to Sheffield 51 years ago because of Wallace’s work for BT, which he first worked for as a telephonist before becoming a travelling rep.

They lived in the Gleadless Valley area and Wallace was a member of the Royal British Legion’s Frecheville branch.

He was also part of the Sheffield branch of the Normandy Veterans Association.

He took part in the annual Armistice Day parades at Crystal Peaks and had also been invited to garden parties at Buckingham Palace for Normandy veterans.

Wallace also returned to Normandy to attend D-Day anniversary commemoration events.