D-Day veteran is given France’s highest honour

Councillor Bridget Hilton presenting Second Workd War veteran Richard Heseltine with the Legion d'honneur at Ribble Valley Town Hall. (s)
Councillor Bridget Hilton presenting Second Workd War veteran Richard Heseltine with the Legion d'honneur at Ribble Valley Town Hall. (s)

A decorated Second World War D-Day veteran has been awarded a special honour by the French Government.

Richard Heseltine was aged just 19 on June 6th, 1944 and a Leading Seaman on the landing ship tanks which arrived on Juno Beach two hours after the famous D-Day landings.

Mr Heseltine (91) was given the Légion d’honneur by Ribble Valley Mayor Coun. Bridget Hilton in a special ceremony at Ribble Valley Council chamber, acccompanied by his wife of 66 years, Elizabeth and son Ian (58).

The French Government has been awarding the medal to D-Day veterans from many different countries for several years, as a way of honouring and thanking those who fought and risked their lives to secure France’s liberation during the Second World War.

Established in 1802 by Napoléon Bonaparte, it is France’s highest distinction and is given in recognition of both military and civilian merit. On average, just 10 British nationals per year receive the Légion d’honneur.

Born in Mitton in 1924, Mr Heseltine attended the village school before going on to Clitheroe Royal Grammar School. He started work at Brockhall Hospital at 16, but volunteered in the early years of the war.

On the infamous date of June 6th, 1944, Leading Seaman Heseltine was aboard a ship carrying 30 Sherman tanks, which hit a mine on nearing the beach. Son Ian told how his father had been part of the advance party who were given the job of checking for damage to the propellers in preparation for the beach landing:

“Dad told me recently how he could see the German snipers in their positions overlooking the beach and how the first soldiers sent ashore were effectively canon-fodder, as the officers knew the snipers would aim their first shots in their direction and this would give them an idea as to the range of the guns before the rest of the soldiers disembarked from the ship.”

“Dad’s remarkable account of the events of that day will remain with me always and we are so proud of him.”