Wiltshire WWII blind veteran receives medal for helping liberate France from the Nazis
A Second World War veteran from Wiltshire has been awarded the Chevalier de l'Ordre National de la Legion d'Honneur for his part in the liberation of France.
Patrick Skilton, 94 and from Swindon, was presented with the honour by Madame Josette Lebrat from the French Consulate in a special ceremony on 28 April 2016 at his home. In attendance was his family, friends and representatives from military charity Blind Veterans UK.
"The presentation was brilliant and I'm very grateful Blind Veterans UK set it up for me. It was very kind of Madame Lebrat to come all the way down to present the medal to me and I'm ever so grateful to French Government for awarding me with this medal."
Air Vice Marshal (Rtd) Paul Luker CB, Blind Veterans UK Trustee, says: "It was a great honour to attend George's Legion d'Honneur presentation. 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."
Patrick joined the Army in 1938 as a boy soldier and became part of the Royal Engineers. He was stationed with a searchlight unit and, at the beginning of the Second World War, during the Battle of Britain was in charge of identifying German airplanes. Afterwards, he changed regiments and became part of the Royal Artillery and was stationed in the outer ring of London to defend the capital.
Patrick later prepared for the Normandy Invasion and landed on Sword Beach on D-Day. His unit supported the assault troops and defend Pegasus Bridge. He fought his way through France, Belgium, the Netherlands and later supported the American and Soviet troops at the Elbe River in Germany. He was demobbed in 1946 and he left the Army as a Sergeant.
After the Army, Patrick worked on a country estate for several years before going back to college and studying engineering, a field in which he worked in until his retirement.
Patrick started to lose his sight in one of his eyes in the early 1990s due to age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). Patrick says: "I found it harder to look for things and when I went to walk the dog my neighbour would come with me so I could cross the road.
"I was told that once one eye went, the other would soon follow due to the strain it would cause."
Patrick wasn't aware that he was entitled to receive free help and support from Blind Veterans UK until 2012. Patrick learned about the charity from the Wiltshire Blind Society.
He says: "Since I became aware of them they have been absolutely brilliant. I went to the charity's Brighton centre for an introduction week where I got training and equipment to help with my day to day activities. It's small things that make a big difference."
"Blind Veterans UK is incredibly helpful and very efficient. They are always there if I need them. They even gave me IT training and a computer so I could write stories on it."
Visit blindveterans.org.uk/support to learn more about how you can support its vital work today.