South Shields veteran gets French honour for role in Second World War liberation

James Green received the award for his involvement in the liberation of France in the Second World War.
James Green received the award for his involvement in the liberation of France in the Second World War.

A war hero from South Tyneside has achieved international recognition after being handed a prestigious award.

James William Green, who served in the Royal Engineers during the Second World War, has been appointed to the rank of Chevalier in the National Order of the Legion of Honour, in France.

James Green received the award for his involvement in the liberation of France in the Second World War.

James Green received the award for his involvement in the liberation of France in the Second World War.

Mr Green, 91, of Alice Street, South Shields, has been recognised for his role in the liberation of France during the conflict, and received a letter and a medal from the Ambassador of France to the United Kingdom, Sylvie Bermann, congratulating him.

He said: “I am very proud to have been awarded the rank of Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur Medal from the French people.

“It is personal to me and recognises the part I took in the liberation of France from the Germans.

“I was involved in the liberation of Belsen and I suffered deeply at the terrible sights that I witnessed.

The award is personal to me and recognises the part I took in the liberation of France from the Germans

James William Green

“It was only after the war had ended that I got married.

“First I had to explain to my then future wife, Freda, about my nightmares, but she took me on and understood my trauma.

“It took over two years of torment for me to come to terms with the terrible, terrible abuse of our fellow human beings.”

Mr Green was 18 when he joined the army in 1942 with the Royal Engineers, and was stationed at Aldershot in Gibraltar Barracks.

James Green received the award for his involvement in the liberation of France in the Second World War.

James Green received the award for his involvement in the liberation of France in the Second World War.

After training, he was stationed on the south coast in readiness for any German invasion, and trained for the defence of the country, as well as an attack on Europe.

When the orders came to attack, he was sent to the build-up of the attack force and was placed on a Canadian ship, sailing from East Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, before eventually speeding towards the French beaches.

As he and his fellow soldiers waded towards the beach, others around were falling as the German firing increased, but Mr Green managed to get behind one of two tanks which had landed, and progressed up the beach.

Many men were lost as they continued to progress, but Mr Green eventually came upon a French village.

He added: “As a youngster, nearly everyone joined the Durham Light Infantry Cadets and I was one of them, always aware of the community’s involvement with the defence of our country. We were very patriotic.

“It was with this background that I felt it my duty to join the army in the time of our country’s need.

“We lost many men as we reached the beaches in France, but we eventually moved forward and came upon a French village.

“I remember it well and the reception the French people gave us was wonderful. They were very pleased to see us.

“Everyone came out to greet us, kissing and hugging us.

“It really made me feel like I was doing something worthwhile.

“Later we fought our way to Cannes, It was very difficult and I lost some good mates.

“I don’t want to talk about Belsen, as it still upsets me deeply.”

The letter to Mr Green was sent by Ms Bermann on behalf of French president François Hollande.

It read: “As we contemplate this Europe of peace, we must never forget the heroes like you, who came from Britain and the Commonwealth to begin the liberation of Europe by liberating France.

“We owe our freedom and security to your dedication, because you were ready to risk your life.”