Wisbech war veteran John is honoured by France for his part in the Normandy Landings and helping to liberate the country
- Credit: Archant
A blind Second World War veteran from Wisbech has been awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur for his part in the liberation of France.
John McIntosh, 91, who survived being blown up by a land-mine during the war, was presented with the honour by French Consul Jean-Claude Lafontaine in a special ceremony at his home on Thursday (21).
The French government wishes to recognise the selfless acts of heroism and determination displayed by all surviving veterans of the Normandy Landings, and of the wider campaigns to liberate France in 1944.
John said: “My wife, son, two daughters and their partners all came down for the ceremony. The French Consul was lovely and it meant a lot to me to have this medal presented to me in front of my family.”
Alan Hay, welfare officer at Blind Veterans UK, says: “It was a great honour to be there to see John presented with his Legion d’Honneur and I personally thanked him for his Service. We’re so proud of all of our veterans like John and it is only right that his Service is recognised with this prestigious French medal.”
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John was drafted to the army in June 1943 and became part of 1st Battalion Highland Light Infantry. He trained in Leeds, Edinburgh and then had intensive training preparing for the Normandy Landings in the South of England.
John, who took part in the landings in June 1944, said: “We had several skirmishes with the Germans but nothing too serious. Between us and the Americans we chased them out of France and Belgium.”
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He was set to go back to Brussels and rest before pushing through to Germany, however, instead he spent the winter of 1944 in the Netherlands.
Early 1945, he went to support the Americans in the Ardennes as the Germans had pushed through the American lines.
John said: “We were going through a forest path when my commander stepped on a land-mine which blew him and myself up. I was lucky I only had some shrapnel wounds.
“Afterwards, I kept getting headaches and, after I was examined, it turned out it was my sinuses causing the pain after the blast.”
As a result John was transferred to the Royal Army Supply Corps until he was demobbed in 1946.
John re-joined the company he had worked for before the war, which is where he met his wife. He started his own company a few years later selling men’s work wear, which he did until he retired in 1991.
John first noticed he was losing his sight around 10 years ago. After seeing a specialist, he was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), a leading cause of sight loss in older people.
He learned about Blind Veterans UK when he went to a garden party where Billy Baxter, a veteran supported by the charity, was a speaker.
Since then, John has received training and equipment from Blind Veterans UK to learn to live independently with sight loss. He has had IT training and completed a painting course, he has also received equipment to help him with his painting and magnifiers.
Visit: blindveterans.org.uk/support for more information.