NORMANDY veteran Eric Westrope says he is proud to have been honoured with a French commemorative medal, adding: “I only wish that a lot more of my colleagues and young men my age had survived.”
The Operation Overlord veteran was presented with the medal for his part in the D-Day landings at his Merley home by Poole Mayor Cllr Peter Adams on Monday morning.
Eric, aged 94, served with the RAF regiment during World War Two, and his job during the Normandy campaign was to set up and defend forward fighter bases to drive the Germans back.
The great-grandfather, who worked on the buses following the war, has been awarded a medal and diploma, signed by Henri Milet, mayor of Sainte Marie du Mont, and deputy mayor Charles de Vallavieille.
The diploma carries the wording: ‘Awarded to you as an honorary citizen of Utah Beach and Sainte Marie du Mont’.
Eric landed on the Normandy coast after sailing across the English Channel on a merchant Liberty Boat.
He recalled: “Halfway across the channel there was a distant boom.
“The chap next to me said: ‘Look at the boat behind us.’ It, the Sambut, was a mass of flames.
“The naval gunners told us later the Germans had probably sighted the boat in front of us, checked that they had their guns correctly lined up on us, then fired on the Sambut. Lots of men were killed.”
Records show 19 crewmen and 18 soldiers died on the Sambut, which sunk later that evening.
Eric served throughout the Normandy campaign into Belgium, Holland and Denmark.
“As we went right across Europe, we would either take over captured airfields and use them or we would establish them ourselves,” he said.
“We used to go through areas where our lads had been fighting. You’d see tanks all over the place, battered and burned out, with men’s bodies hanging out of them. It was one hell of a state.”
Eric has also written a book on his wartime experience called Dorset to Denmark – My Journey.