Military honour for proud D-Day veteran

Bill Wake at the ceremony with loved ones and French Consul Eric Donjon.
Bill Wake at the ceremony with loved ones and French Consul Eric Donjon.

A proud D-Day hero from Northumberland has been presented with France’s highest military honour.

Royal Navy veteran Bill Wake, from Ulgham, received the Légion d’Honneur at a ceremony in Newcastle on Tuesday evening.

The accolade recognises the selfless acts of heroism and determination displayed by all surviving British veterans of the Normandy landings and of the wider campaigns to liberate France from the Nazis in the Second World War.

The 91-year-old, who used to run a pharmacy in Hadston and Red Row, served on D-Day in 1944 and continued to play a part in the war effort until the conflict finished.

The great-grandfather was delighted and honoured to be presented with the accolade by Eric Donjon, French Consul, at the Royal Engineer Barracks in Newcastle.

Bill said: “I feel very proud to receive this award.

“A lot of memories came to mind of the people who also could have been presented with this award.

“I feel very fortunate to be alive to receive this medal and it is very kind of the French Government to hand out these medals to veterans like me.”

Bill served from November 2, 1943, to November 14, 1946.

Prior to D-Day, Bill served aboard HMS Excalibur and HMS Victory, as well as at the Royal Navy Hospital at Barrow Gurney.

Then, on D-Day, on June 6, 1944, he was on a landing craft dropping off men and supplies on Juno Beach as a sick-bay attendant and taking wounded back to the Royal Naval Hospital at Haslar, near Portsmouth.

Later, he was sent to Sydney, Australia, to work at the Naval Hospital looking after those injured fighting the Japanese and was still there after the war ended, looking after injured men and also women released from internment by the Japanese.

After war service in 1946, he trained to be a pharmacist, eventually having his own practice, WH Wake Pharmacist, in Red Row and Hadston, until he retired.

Bill is a member of The Rotary Club of Amble and Warkworth and will this year celebrate half-a-century of service to the group.

Among those to attend Tuesday night’s ceremony in Newcastle with Bill was his granddaughter Dr Nicola Darrington. Jeff and June Watson of Warkworth and Amble District Branch of the Royal British Legion were also present.

Jeff said: “Bill asked us to the ceremony as through the Royal British Legion, we helped him apply for his medal.

“There was a delay in the application process by the MOD which was speedily resolved by the intervention of local MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan.”