French honour for Hadleigh war veteran

Hadleigh war veteran Harry Hughes has been given one of France's highest awards, the Legion of Honour. ANL-151214-122936001
Hadleigh war veteran Harry Hughes has been given one of France's highest awards, the Legion of Honour. ANL-151214-122936001

A Second World War veteran from Hadleigh has celebrated his 90th birthday by being given one of France’s highest awards for his efforts in the country’s liberation.

Harry Hughes, who turned 90 last week, was formally presented with the Legion of Honour award for his part in the liberation of France from Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

Watched by his family, he was given the honour by Diana Hunt, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk at a ceremony in the Guildhall, Hadleigh on Sunday.

Shortly after his 18th birthday, Mr Hughes received his call up papers and reported to the Suffolk Regiment in February 1944.

After a few months of hurried training, he was shipped out to Normandy to join the 1st Battalion of the Suffolks as a battlefield casualty replacement.

On reaching the Battalion the young Harry was met by an older man who immediately told him to report to ‘D’ Company.

Not seeing any obvious badge of rank, he asked the man ‘who are you then?’, At which point the man raised his sleeve to show his Sergeant Major’s badge and replied ‘If you live long enough, you’ll get to know us all. Now get a move on’.

Mr Hughes went on to fight through France, Belgium and Holland before entering Germany.

At the end of the war in Europe, Mr Hughes and the Suffolks remained in Germany as the initial army of occupation.

However, their time in Germany was cut short and the battalion was shipped out to the Middle East where he continued to serve in Palestine.

He returned home in 1947 and was demobbed in September 1947.

A popular figure in Hadleigh, Mr Hughes keeps himself active by dog walking and tending his productive garden.

He is also a regular at The George public house where Mark Brennan, from the Hadleigh and District Royal British Legion, said he would be inundated with congratulations from his friends.