Bolton WWII blind veteran receives medal for helping liberate France from the Nazis

9 February 2016 10:59

A blind veteran who was among the first British troops to enter France on D-Day has received a medal for helping liberate that country from the Nazis. Ray Shuck, 92, and from Kearsley, was presented with his Chevalier de l'Ordre National de la Legion d'Honneur at the Blind Veterans UK Llandudno centre last week.

Ray says, "I wasn't expecting the medal, with it being 70 years after the war, but was honoured to receive it."

Ray is a Second World War veteran who joined the South Staffordshire Regiment in 1941 and trained as a commando. He was part of the infantry unit of the British 6th Airborne Division that were sent into France on D-Day in a Horsa glider, an engine-less plane, to seize two bridges that the Nazis planned to blow up.

The successful holding of the Horsa and Pegasus Bridges limited the Nazi counter-attack following the Allied invasion, which began the liberation of Nazi-controlled Western Europe.

Ray says, "They called it the longest day. We fought like cats for thirty hours to stop them taking the bridges back."

As the British advanced towards Caen, the largest town in Normandy, Ray was shot in the head. He was taken to Worcester Royal Infirmary in the United Kingdom. Among his fleeting memories are the nurses and doctors shouting because the war was over.

He says, "The surgeon said I was lucky to be alive. The bullet went in the front of my helmet, skimmed across my head and went out the back. The scar still shows so I wear a hat."

Ray has received help and support from Blind Veterans UK since 2012. He lost his sight due to Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD), a leading cause of blindness and vision-impairment in older people.

Ray says, "It's an awful feeling not being able to see properly. I knew there was something wrong because I had difficulty reading."

Blind Veterans UK have provided Ray with a talking watch and a CCTV magnifier to help him read letters and newspapers.

He says, "I don't have to wait for my daughter to read my letters. Now I can just pop my letters and newspapers under the machine."

Ray has also visited the charity's Llandudno centre for training and for holidays. On his last visit, he went on a trip to an aquarium.

He says, "They provide transport door-to-door and the staff at the centre are lovely. I have arthritis in my spine and can't walk far. Having a carer to push my wheelchair helped me get out-and-about more."

Ray received the Chevalier de l'Ordre National de la Legion d'Honneur medal from the French Government who decided, in June 2014, to award all veterans still alive who fought to liberate France, more specifically on or after D-Day (6 June 1944).