France’s highest honour awarded to D-Day veteran

Stamford Mayor John Dawson presenting  Len Meekings (94) with the  Legion d'Honneur medal at Priory Care Home, Stamford EMN-161105-163129009
Stamford Mayor John Dawson presenting Len Meekings (94) with the Legion d'Honneur medal at Priory Care Home, Stamford EMN-161105-163129009
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An army veteran who took part in the D-Day landings before serving in France, Belgium and Holland has been presented with the Legion d’honneur.

Len Meekings, who served as a sergeant with the Royal Artillery, received the award – France’s highest honour – on his 94th birthday.

Mayor of Stamford John Dawson presented Mr Deekings with his medal during a party attended by friends, family members and well-wishers at Priory Court Care Home, where he has lived for just over a year.

Addressing Mr Meekings directly, Coun Dawson said: “Over the last 10 years I have met many brave servicemen who have received the Légion d’honneur on behalf of the people of France with their love and gratitude.

“It’s the highest honour you can get and I am delighted to present it to you.

“If you go to any restaurant in France wearing your medal they’ll give you the best table in the house.”

Mr Meekings sailed to Normandy in June 1944 aboard HMS Despatch and was tasked with escorting a team of engineers who were to build a ‘Mulberry harbour’, and providing air defence support.

The temporary harbour, at Arromanches, was used to facilitate the rapid offloading of cargo onto beaches during the Allied invasion.

When the port of LeHavre was liberated in September 1944, Mr Meekings was assigned to a unit which fought its way inland through France,Belgium and Holland.

After the war, Mr Meekings said he “couldn’t get out of the army quick enough”, and went on to work in office and personnel management.

Speaking after being presented with the Legion d’Honneur he said: “This was a wonderful surprise. I had actually received the medal in the post and had no idea the mayor was coming to officially present it to me.

“I feel honoured and it’s wonderful to have so many people here to see me.”

Graham Watson, who was representing Stamford Twinning Association and the Royal British Legion, said: “Heroes of the D-Day landings like Len do not think of themselves as heroic, but that’s exactly what they are.

“The sacrifices they made should never be forgotten and it is fantastic that the French government has taken steps to ensure these brave men are presented with such a top accolade.”

On the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June 2014, French President François Hollande announced that the Legion d’Honneur would be awarded to all British veterans who fought for the liberation of France during the Second World War.

The Légion d’honneur was established in 1802 by Napoléon Bonaparte. It is France’s highest distinction and is awarded in recognition of military and civilian merit.