A Doncaster World War Two veteran has dedicated his Legion of Honour medal to all his mates who didn’t return.
Lance Corporal Fred Adamson has been recognised by French authorities for his role in the Normandy landings during Operation Overlord in June 1944.
The National Order of the Legion of Honour - Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur - is France’s highest military award.
It was announced on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of France that the award would be given to all surviving Normandy veterans.
Last week, Doncaster civic mayor David Nevett hosted a civic reception at Mansion House to honour L Cpl Adamson’s achievements, and thank him for his service.
L Cpl Adamson was accompanied by son David Adamson, son-in-law Stephen Knight, grandson Philip Knight and grand-daughter Leanne Adamson.
Councillors Sandra Holland and Nigel Ball were also at the reception, along with mayor’s consort Kathleen Nevett.
L Cpl Adamson, who is now a Conisbrough resident, was proud and visibly emotional when he spoke to the group.
The 97-year-old has vivid memories of fighting in Belgium and France.
He described jumping into neck-deep water when his company came ashore in the operation.
Despite the honour he has been awarded, L Cpl Adamson does not think he was brave and said he and his compatriots were scared.
“We weren’t brave, we were frightened,” he said.
“But we went with it. We didn’t have a choice.”
“When we landed, me being a bit short, the water was up to my neck.”
Tears were in his eyes when he spoke about the fellow soldiers who didn’t come home from the battlefields.
They included L Cpl Adamson’s great mate and fellow Conisbrough resident Ronnie McGrath, who was aged just 17 when he was killed.
L Cpl Adamson was just yards away when his friend died at Tessel Wood, France, on June 26, 1944.
L Cpl Adamson served in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in the 1/4 Battalion, A Company.
There were just over 100 soldiers in the company, and 26 were killed in action.
“I accept this as a token for all the people who didn’t come back,” Lance Corporal Adamson said.
If it wasn’t for a couple of cigarette cases, L Cpl Adamson might not have made it back himself.
He was injured at Poppel, near the Belgium/Holland border, and was lucky to survive.
He felt a blow on the left side of his chest, but thought nothing of it. He was more concerned about the blood in his boot from a calf wound.
It was only when he was asked by a priest at the advanced dressing station whether he had a case for some cigarettes that he realised he’d been hit in the chest, too.
He pulled out his cigarette cases to find they had taken the shrapnel blow.
The shrapnel had gone through one and bent the other, saving his life.
L Cpl Adamson’s AB64 pay book - part of his official record of service - had also been damaged.
He was thankful he had the items in his pocket on that day.
“I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t have those in my left tunic pocket,” he said.
The irony of the situation wasn’t lost on Philip Knight.
“They were made by German prisoners of war,” he said.
L Cpl Adamson returned to England briefly for treatment, and while there, married Elsie Robinson at Southend in 1945. She died in 2015.
L Cpl Adamson had his cigarette cases and the pay book with him last week.
They’re among many mementos he’s kept from the war years.
He has visited the battlefields a couple of times since. Mr Knight took L Cpl Adamson back in the 1980s.
They laid a poppy cross on Ronnie McGrath’s grave in Holland. L Cpl Adamson and Ronnie’s sister, Winnie, have spoken at ceremonies in Conisbrough.
L Cpl Adamson and Mr Knight returned to the battlefields a second time more than 10 years ago.
It was the first time since the war that L Cpl Adamson had flown in a plane.
L Cpl is keen to speak about the war when asked, his grandson said.
“He’ll talk about it if you ask him about it,” he said.
Coun Nevett was proud to host the event for L Cpl Adamson.
“It’s a huge honour for me to meet you with the rest of your family,” he said.
“It really is a privilege I have on behalf of the people of Doncaster, and I welcome you to Mansion House.”
The Royal British Legion presented L Cpl Adamson with his medal last November.
Mr Knight said he got a tremendous reception at Conisbrough.
“The local community was there,” he said.
Coun Ball thanked L Cpl Adamson for his efforts. He said that was the reason free speech was enjoyed in this country today.
“At the end of the day, it does need recognising, and remembering as well,” he said.
The Legion of Honour was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte.