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

Date
23 June 2016

A Second World War veteran from Hampshire has been awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur for his part in the liberation of France on D-Day yesterday.

Ronald Cross MBE, 96 and from Gosport, was presented with the honour by French Consul Captain Francois Jean in a special ceremony on 22 June 2016. The presentation took place at the Blind Veterans UK Portsmouth reunion lunch held at the Royal Naval Club & Royal Albert Yacht Club.

Ronald Cross awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur

Ron says: “I’m very proud to have received this medal and hugely grateful to Blind Veterans UK for arranging the presentation. It’s a great honour that we’re still remembered by the French government.

“This medal is not just for me, but for all the chaps who didn’t make it back.”

Colonel Mike Brooke OBE a Blind Veterans UK Trustee says: “It was a great honour to be there to see Ron presented with his Legion d’Honneur and I personally thanked him for his Service. We’re so proud of all of our veterans like Ron and it is only right that his Service is recognised with this prestigious French medal.”

Ron was born in Portsmouth in 1920, left school at 14 and completed a joiner’s apprenticeship at White’s Builders in Gosport where he built bungalows. He joined the Royal Engineers in August 1940 and, as part of the 79th Armoured Division, landed at H-Hour on D-Day.

He was in an AVRE (Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers) Churchill tank and their job was to make sure that gaps could be made for tanks to come ashore and support the infantry.

Ron says: “I still remember it very clearly but definitely wouldn’t want to do it all again. The infantry had already landed by the time we arrived and we landed with the Regina Rifles from Canada.

“I was a demolition NCO and if things needed to be blown away it was my job to get out and do it.

“We were successful and, by 09:00, we hoisted a blue windsock which indicated that a gap was open for the next group to come in.”

Ron went on to complete three landings in Holland later in the war and was mentioned in dispatches after one of them. He was discharged as a Corporal in 1946, after which he returned to Gosport to work at Haslar Hospital as an Occupational Therapist for 37 years. He developed and built up the Occupational Therapy Department over a long career and received an MBE for his work at the hospital.

Ron’s vision started to deteriorate in 2009 and he was later diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). He began receiving support from the charity in 2012.

He says: “Once my sight started to get worse I thought that I should stop driving and went to my optometrist who said that I would have to stop. My sight has got worse steadily since then.

“Blind Veterans UK are marvellous. Three years ago I couldn’t write a letter anymore because my sight had got so bad. But I went on a Blind Veterans UK IT course and they have given me all the training and equipment I need to carry on. I have a special screen that magnifies what I write and software that reads it back to me.

“I can now send emails which is so important for keeping in touch with people like my grandchildren.”