Kent WWII blind veteran receives medal for helping liberate France from the Nazis
30 April 2016 16:03
A Second World War veteran from Kent has been awarded Chevalier de l'Ordre National de la Legion d'Honneur for his part in the liberation of France.
George Haslam, 92 and from Welling, was presented with the honour by Blind Veterans UK trustee Colonel Mike Brooke OBE in a special ceremony on 19 April 2016 at the Blind Veterans UK Brighton centre.
George says: "The presentation was brilliant and I'm very grateful Blind Veterans UK set it up for me. Colonel Brooke was very charming and chatted with me. Afterwards everyone came up to me to have a look at my Legion d'Honneur."
Colonel Mike Brooke OBE says: "It was a great honour to present the Legion d'Honneur to George and I personally thanked him for his Service. We're so proud of all of our veterans like George and it is only right that his Service is recognised with this prestigious French medal."
George was called up for National Service when he was 18 and joined the Royal Signals. After initial training he became part of 63 Advance Wing of 12 Air Formation Signals, where he was trained to operate telephone centres and sent messages in Morse code.
George says: "Before I joined the Army I worked in the Post Office as a Telegraphist so my touch typing skills were already up to speed, and even exceeded, the Army's requirements."
George was stationed across the UK before being transferred to the 2nd Tactical Air Force to wait in Salisbury and then Gosport to go across the Channel for the Normandy Invasion. George landed in Arromanches, nicknamed Sword Beach, in July 1944. George was on the back of a converted truck, which is where they put the mobile signals office. Going through France into Brussels where he went on to support the Allies in the Battle of the Bulge, a German surprise attack.
George ended up in Germany supporting Brigadier Bastin and other officers before getting demobbed in 1947 leaving as a Sergeant.
After his career in the Army, George went back to his telegraphist job at the Post Office, later British Telecom, where he worked his way up to senior HR manager.
George noticed his vision was clouding over in 2011 and was later diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). He was referred to Blind Veterans UK by Inspire Community Trust and started receiving help and support by the charity not long after.
Recently George went to the Blind Veterans UK Brighton centre for an introduction week. He says: "I was very apprehensive and thought 'what am I letting myself in for' however, I was reassured by my Welfare Officer and my daughter went with me as well."
George tried all kinds of sports and tools while at the centre. He tried his hand at blind archery, rifle shooting, bowls, art and crafts, all of which he thoroughly enjoyed. A Rehabilitation Officer for the Visually Impaired went over different types of equipment that might benefit George and he now has a talking clock, magnifier with screen and a boombox for talking books.
George says: "Blind Veterans UK is the most efficient organisation I've ever come across and I am delighted I went to their Brighton centre.
"When I walked into the centre I was a stranger to the staff and volunteers but they treated me as if they had known me all my life. I can't thank them enough for the amazing experience and I hope life will be a bit easier now with everything I've learned."