Sheffield war heroes honoured by France

Two Sheffield World War II heroes have been recognised for their valour by the French government.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 13th December 2016, 9:57 am
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 12:48 pm
Frank Yates (l) and Don Walker are receiving the French Legion of Honour medal. Picture: Andrew Roe
Frank Yates (l) and Don Walker are receiving the French Legion of Honour medal. Picture: Andrew Roe

Don Walker, aged 93, of Greenhill, and Frank Yates, 95, of Intake, have been honoured for their role in liberating France from the Nazis.

Both men have been recognised with France’s highest military accolade, the Legion d’Honneur.

Don, who is set to formally receive his honour in the New Year, said: “It’s nice I suppose, but I don’t want a lot of pomp and ceremony.

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“I don’t want a lot of fuss but that’s just me. I keep going, that’s the main thing.”

Brave Don recalled his time as a wireless operator in a Churchill Tank during Operation Goodwood in 1944 – a month after D-Day.

After penetrating German lines in France, he was hit by a shell and was blown out of his tank but miraculously survived. His crew died and Don was soon captured by Nazi soldiers.

“It was a bit of a shock as a young man. I’d lost all my crew members and it took a lot of getting used to,” he said.

But despite being a POW, he said the German soldiers treated him fairly well and he recalled eating tinned chicken – something he was highly suspicious about at first.

Don said: “I was interrogated at great length and they were delighted to capture a young tank man. I think they thought I was a big prize.

“They used to bring people round to come and have a look at me.”

Don was made to work in a factory making roof tiles, but still continued to ‘do his bit’ by sabotaging machinery and products.

After the war, Don became a book-keeper in the steel industry.

He was a keen cyclist and took great pleasure in riding his bike in the countryside which helped him try to forget the horrific experiences.

Frank, who recently received the French honour, published his fascinating memoirs of his time during the war.

Frank was a Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery and was attached to the 53rd Welsh Division Headquarters as a liaison officer.

In one chilling extract, Frank wrote: “The soldiers, strewn about the margins of the road, were truly a horrific spectacle. Missing heads, missing limbs and grinning teeth as the lower jaws had, frequently, been blown away. All this permeated with the miasma of death, such a common feature of life of 1944 in Normandy.”

After the war, Frank became a teacher and was at one time the head of science at Tapton School in Crosspool.

He penned his extensive memoirs, consisting of 48 chapters, which are available on the BBC website.

On his medal, Frank said: “I’m very proud to receive this honour. Many of us didn’t make it back and I’m one of the lucky ones.”