A World War Two D-Day landings veteran said he hopes he “did his bit” as he proudly showed off the medal he has finally been awarded for the part he played in the war.
Now 91, Reg Menzies was on board one of eight ships involved in a minesweeping operation as part of the D-Day landings.
And he has now been recognised with the award of the Legion d’Honneur – France’s highest military honour – for his service with the Royal Navy during World War Two.
Reg grew up in Horwich, near Bolton, and was called up to serve with the Royal Navy in January 1943.
He said: “In 1941 I was in the Home Guard, I was a despatch rider on a bicycle – underage, of course.
“My dad didn’t want me to join the army and my mum didn’t want me to join the RAF. so when I was old enough I signed up for the Royal Navy.
“I did six months training and qualified as a signalman and was transferred to Fort William, where I did three months training on motor torpedo boats.”
At the end of 1943 Reg was transferred to Malta, remaining in the Mediterranean until March 1946.
During that time he was involved in the invasions of Anzio and Elba in Italy.
But it is the part he played in the second phase of D-Day landings on August 15 1944, as part of a south of France invasion, for which Reg has gained his most recent recognition.
On board ML 121, Reg was part of a 16-man team which joined seven other ships in sweeping the French coastline of mines, to allow assault craft and troop carriers to safely approach the shore.
Reg returned to England on March 9 1946 – the day of the Bolton Wanderers football stadium disaster.
“I remember it clearly because it was the first news I read about when I got back to England, and it was my home town team,” he said.
Reg left the navy at the age of 24, working as a chauffeur and telephonist before settling in the timber trade.
He married his wife Betty after meeting her on a trip to Blackpool when he was 32, and the couple had a son, Simon.
Betty sadly died four years ago and Reg now lives with Simon in Halton.
He has two grandchildren, Rebecca, 26, and Robert, 24.
“About 18 months ago the Royal Navy told me I might qualify for the medal, so I put in an application and then forgot all about it,” he said.
“About six months later I got a letter from the Ministry of Defence to say the French Embassy had been inundated with requests for medals.
“I didn’t really think about it again but now it’s here it’s nice to get it.
“Getting the medal has made it all feel like it happened last week, it has brought it all back.”
The award of the Legion d’Honneur is bitter-sweet for Reg, who knows he was lucky to survive where so many others didn’t.
“I am getting this medal, but my senior officer died and his family gets nothing,” he said.
“He was only 25 or 26; we were all just kids really.
“But my father was badly injured at Flanders during the First World War, and when I think about what he went through I think I had it soft really.
“But I like to think I did my bit.”