A 94-year-old Londoner was among those showing off his new wartime honours this week, after French President François Hollande made him a Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour), the country’s highest award.
Jack Freedman was just 22 years of age when he took part in the liberation of France, but an attack on his ship by a Luftwaffe twin-engined combat aircraft meant that he never actually made it there.
“Dad was on a ship heading towards Omaha Beach on D+11 (17th June) when it was attacked by a Junkers JU88 which dropped the torpedo that sank his ship,” said Jack’s son Alan. “He was lucky to have survived, as the torpedo hit just far enough away from him for him to have escaped.”
On the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June 2014, Hollande said that the distinction would be awarded to all British veterans who fought for the liberation of France, taking part in military operations in the country between 1944 and 1945. But the French embassy received more than 3,000 applications in the space of a few months, so time taken to check records meant that the awards were delayed.
Although Jack never reached France in the end, he did enough to receive the France and Germany Star, a military campaign medal instituted by the UK, which entitled him to apply for, and receive, the highest French award.
He was one of several Jewish recipients to have received the award by post earlier this month and, while not automatic, a formal presentation is being planned, due to the large number of British recipients. The ceremony will be held by the French Ambassador to the UK, Sylvie Bermann, at her home in Kensington.