France has honoured one of the UK’s oldest D-Day veterans for his efforts to liberate their country more than 75 years ago.
Former minesweeper crewman Dennis Roy Cooper became the latest veteran of the 1944-45 campaign to receive the Legion d’Honneur.
The 102-year-old, known as Roy, was assigned to escorting the Mulberry harbours – the artificial ports which were key to sustaining the Allied war effort in Northwest Europe once the liberating armies established a foothold in occupied France.
Also, as part of the enormous armada gathered for Operation Neptune, he was engaged in sweeping operations to keep the waters between Sword Beach and Cotentin Peninsula.
“We are all here today because of the sacrifices made in those dark days.
“I lost many friends who I will never forget. It is important that these events are never forgotten.”
The Lord Lieutenant told the veteran the decision to honour him had been made by French President Emmanuel Macron personally “in recognition of what you did in those dark days”.
He continued: “Today France wants to thank you for the commitment you showed to the country during this terrible campaign in France.”
Originally from Portsmouth, Roy was enlisted in October 1940 and spent three years serving in battleship HMS King George V, taking part in operations in the North Atlantic, North Africa and Italy.
Commissioned in 1943, the then junior officer was assigned to minesweepers and saw extensive action clearing minefields off the invasion beaches and Cherbourg peninsula as well as waters around Guernsey.
Post-war he worked in the motor industry before eventually retiring to Marnhull in Dorset, where he has lived for thirty-two years with his wife Mary, a retired headmistress.
“It was amazing to hear that Roy still drives his 4×4 everywhere and loves to draw and paint which keeps him active,” said WO Firth.
“He explained that his hearing isn’t what it should be as when he was embarked aboard HMS King George V he snuck out onto the upper deck to use the heads when she fired her 14in guns which as you may imagine must have been deafening.
“He’s a wonderful man, and it was a privilege for RNAS Yeovilton to be a part of the ceremony.”
The Légion d’Honneur, created by Napoleon in 1802, is France’s highest distinction and honours exceptional acts of bravery and devotion by all those who have served France, whether they are French by birth or “by spilled blood”.
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