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A 102-year-old D-Day veteran Gilbert Norris received a special visit from the Consul General of France, Emmanuel Cocher, who presented him with the Légion d’honneur in recognition of his help in liberating France during the Second World War.
The Légion d’honneur is the highest distinction in France and was created by Napoleon in 1802. In 2014 former French president François Hollande – for the 70th year of celebration of the liberation of France – made the decision to honour all of the foreign veterans who played a part during the liberation.
At a ceremony held at Cooriedoon Care Home in Whiting Bay, where he now lives, Gilbert received the medal and personal thanks from Mr Cocher and North Ayrshire Council Provost, Ian Clarkson. Geoff Norris, Gilbert’s son, was also at the event to witness the honour being bestowed on his father.
Gilbert, who just turned 102 last month, was born on May 29, 1916. He joined the territorial army before the war and was called up to serve in 1939 and remained in the military until 1946. In June 1944 he was part of the D-Day landings as a captain in the Royal Engineers who were attached to the 7th Armoured Division in the initial stages of the invasion. During his time in France he spent most of his time building and repairing bridges which had been destroyed by the French, the Royal Air Force and the Germans.
Presenting the Légion d’honneur, making Gilbert a Chevalier (Knight), Mr Cocher, who is based in Edinburgh, said: ‘On behalf of the President and people of France we thank you for your service. Without the selfless sacrifice made by men like yourself, the world we live in today would be a very different place. Because of your bravery and service, France can be grateful for restoring their pride, their independence and restoring their hope and dignity. We are honoured to be able to present this medal to you and to express our gratitude.’
Gilbert who came to live on Arran in 1978 after a successful career in the civil service, latterly as chief roads engineer with the Scottish Development Department in Edinburgh, said: ‘This is a great day. I appreciate this very much.’
After the short ceremony staff and residents at Cooriedoon Care Home joined Gilbert and all of the attendees in celebrating the occasion with champagne, sandwiches, savoury snacks and a large chocolate cake.