North Somerset D-Day veteran receives award for role in defeating the Nazis
PUBLISHED: 08:00 17 September 2017
A North Somerset World War Two veteran has been recognised for the role he played in liberation of France from the Nazis with a 'prestigious' award this week.
Churchill resident Peter Johnson, aged 91, spent six days on the beaches of Normandy after landing on D-Day in 1944 – and his efforts have been recognised with an award from the French consulate.
Battersea-born Peter was been presented with the Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur at a ceremony hosted by charity Blind Veterans UK.
The former Royal Navy serviceman was given the prize by French consul of Bristol, Josette Lebrat on behalf of French President Emmanuel Macron.
Peter said he was ‘very proud’ to receive the commendation.
He commented: “I’m grateful that they have chosen to recognise the part that I and so many others played in the liberation of France in World War Two.
“At the same time I’m greatly saddened that so many who died while fighting were unable to be recognised in a similar way. I am therefore receiving this medal not only for myself, but also for them.
“The day itself was a fantastic occasion. Very emotional, but great to meet so many other veterans. It was also lovely to meet Madame Lebrat.”
Peter travelled the world during his time in the Navy, but its his memories of Normandy which stick with him the most.
He added: “Anyone who was there and says they weren’t frightened are not being truthful. We had all sorts surrounding us; submarines, Stuka bombers and E-boats.
“I saw lots of ghastly things, truly ghastly. The enemy had a very effective system by which they used to sink the ships in our convoy.
“I remember seeing ships that had been struck, they’d just break right in half and oil would burst out into the ocean and catch fire. People would jump off into the burning water, calling out the names of their wives and children.
“We tried to catch as many as we could but it was still the nastiest thing I’ve ever seen, and I witnessed it happen a few times. I had nightmares after that.”
Peter has been registered blind since 2006 after suffering a sub retinal haemorrhage, and Blind Veterans has provided him with support which he is ‘immensely grateful’ for – including nominating him for the Legion d’Honneur.