Dalkeith veteran awarded France's Legion of Honour
A 99-YEAR-OLD war veteran from Dalkeith has received the Legion of Honour from France for his part in the D-Day landings 72 years ago.
Stephen Murray was presented with the award – his full title is Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Legion D’Honneur – by the French Consul at a special ceremony in Edinburgh recently. This medal is the highest decoration given in France.
Stephen, who turns 100 in May, was delighted to receive the honour.
He said: “I felt very proud, very happy. I didn’t think I would ever get it at my age. It was brilliant. I have never shaken hands with so many people and had my photo taken by so many cameras.
“I’m a bit laid back. I didn’t know I was even eligible for it until a man from the British Legion told me. It just happened from there. I got a letter from the French Consul in London which said I had been promoted to a chevalier.
“Apparently that’s a knight. So I’m a knight in shining armour.
“I was piped in, it was very nice. My granddaughter has come over from Canada. It was just by coincidence she was here for this, but nice. My son and his wife live in Paris, Canada, funnily enough.”
Stephen was in the Royal Army Ordinance Corps and volunteered for the second front on D-Day, June 6, 1944, landing on Juno Beach in France.
Recalling the historic event, he said:“We had trained on a ship. The date of the landings was meant to be June 1. So we ended up staying in Southampton waters from June 1-5.
“When we got there on the 6th, off the shore of France, the water was pretty rough.
“We were the second wave. The first wave was supposed to come back for us but they never came back. We had to turn round and grab on to the tank landing craft. But it was still 300 yards off the shore. So we got into the water and waded ashore. I was up to my shoulders in water.
“The navy thought that was far enough and we walked to the beach.
“It was a bit hairy at the end. We didn’t get trained for things like that. But we got there. I think we actually landed on the wrong beach. We were supposed to set up the stores dump. We had all sorts of things for tanks, etc. It was very dangerous. If we had slipped down that night while waiting we would have been crushed.
“The Canadians had cleared ten miles the first day so we didn’t see any Germans when we came ashore fortunately.
“I was a first-class soldier. I worked up to class one. Even my sergeant major was class three. I have a big D stamped in my army book for distinction because I did really well.”
Stephen, originally from Hawick, worked on the railways for 51 years. He and his wife Ella moved to Eskbank in 1964 and lived there until her death in 1988. Stephen has lived in Dalkeith since.