Sheffielder Patrick Strafford can now call himself a ‘chevalier’ of the Legion of Honour after he received a medal from the French government for his role in the liberation of the country during World War Two.
Patrick, who lives in Shiregreen, has just celebrated his 90th birthday. As an 18-year-old he took part in a battle a few days after the start of the Normandy landings in 1944.
He was part of 1/4 Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.
Patrick still carries the scars of that battle.
He said: “We landed a few days after D-Day. I was in the thick of a battle to get off a bridge and there was shelling and machine gun fire.
“I suffered gunshot wounds to my hand and up my arm. We were attacking two German positions, right and left. The one on the right was being shelled to neutralise it.
“We were going between both of them to get the ground, which we achieved. On the way I received the gunshot wounds. That neutralised me.”
Patrick was sent home in a tank landing craft. He remembered: “German prisoners and wounded were all mixed up together. When we landed in England, the sailors didn’t know who was German or English!”
After a period of recuperation, he was unfit to return to duty because of his wound, which badly damaged his trigger hand, so went into a job with Davy United on Prince of Wales Road.
Patrick carried on working for the firm after the war, One of his most memorable jobs in later years was working on 7ft long hydraulic arms for the Thames Barrier.
The French government decided to award medals this year to all the veterans who had taken part in the liberation of France. Patrick also holds other medals from the French government.
He said: “It’s a token of thanks. We appreciate it at our age about what we really did, other than just fighting.
“I started thinking of the meaning of what we did after all these years. We took part in the liberation of France, which led to the liberation of other countries in Europe. I am tremendously proud.”