War veteran, 92, awarded Chevalier in the Order National de la Legion d’honour at Cromwell Community College’s Armistice Day event
- Credit: Archant
A 92-year-old war veteran was awarded the Chevalier in the Order National de la Legion d’honour at Cromwell Community College’s Armistice Day event.
Harold Markham was presented with the award by Colonel Colin Elsden, deputy lieutenant of the Royal British Legion for Cambridgeshire.
Established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, the Legion d’honour is the highest French order for military and civil merits, with the top distinction being ‘chevalier’ (knight). The orders motto is ‘Honneur et Patrie’, meaning ‘honour and fatherland’.
James Asher, a Year 12 student, interviewed Mr Markham, who has previously received medals including the Arctic Star, the Atlantic Star, 1939-1945 War Medal, Normandy Landing Star, Burma Star, Arctic Campaign Star and the Cadet Forces
“Mr Markham was stationed upon the HMS Berwick (heavy cruiser) which protected convoys travelling to Murmansk in Russia,” he told James.
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“He landed at Juno beach during the D-day landings on June 6, 1944. This was alongside Canadian troops.
“He initially wanted to be a pilot but was rejected and then opted into being a gunner in a bomber turret.
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“But he was subsequently vetoed by his father saying that he didn’t want him getting shot at all day.
“So he signed up for the royal navy and became an engineer in the boiler room of HMS Berwick. He lost a good friend on the decks of that ship.
“He was given the Burma Star for his landings and fighting back the Japanese and was also part of the rescue team of prisoners in Changi Jail. He suffered heat exhaustion and was put into hospital for three weeks on the return journey from the prison.
“The most enjoyable time for him was travelling along the India peninsula railway to Calcutta, seeing the red city and the Taj Mahal.
“In Oct 1946 he returned to Britain and was given £70 and a new suit which is the modern equivalent of £3,500 with inflation.
“His landing craft sunk at D-Day and he had to swim to shore.”
The school’s annual service also involved children baking food for visitors, singing, playing instruments and handing over cheques to charities.
Year 12 public services students also held fundraising events throughout the week for the Poppy Appeal.
Major Norman Larke, chairman of the Chatteris branch of the Royal British Legion, said: “The whole service was run magnificently by the college and its students.”