Hitchin’s Tom honoured with France’s top medal after his D-Day heroics

John Browne, Tom Browne and councillor John Booth

John Browne, Tom Browne and councillor John Booth - Credit: Archant

A Hitchin war hero has been awarded the highest French medal for military and civil merit – the Legion of Honour.

Tom Browne with his Legion d'Honneur

Tom Browne with his Legion d'Honneur - Credit: Archant

Tom Browne served in the D-Day campaign, arriving on the Normandy beaches just days after the landings on June 6, 1944 which began the liberation of France from Nazi tyranny.

In 2015 the French government decided it would give the prestigious Ordre National de la Légion d’honneur to all surviving Normandy veterans.

President Francois Hollande announced the decision during the 70th anniversary commemorations of D-Day on June 6, in 2014. However, red tape has meant Mr Browne did not receive his medal – until now.

Surrounded by his family at Westbourne Residential Care Home on Bedford Road Mr Browne, 96, was handed the award – which was established by Napoleon Bonarparte in 1802 – by North Hers District Council chairman John Booth.

Tom Browne and family with councillor John Booth

Tom Browne and family with councillor John Booth - Credit: Archant

Mr Browne’s son Jim, who was by his father’s side at the care home, told the Comet: “My family and I are very proud of my father.

“After the war he worked in farming until the early 1960s when he moved to Hertfordshire where, after a brief spell in farming in the area he worked for Morse Chain in Letchworth and then for Motorola in Stotfold, where he worked until his retirement.

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“He and his wife Margaret lived in St Ippolyts where they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1994. Margaret passed away in 2004.

“I am pleased the French government decided to appoint my father to the rank of Chevalier in the Ordre National de la Légion d’honneur for his involvement in the Liberation of France.”

Mr Browne, who is now deaf, enlisted in the Territorial Army in February 1939 and was called up for active service at the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 in the 418th S/L battery Royal Artillery TA 56th Searchlight.

He embarked from south coast shores on June 8, 1944, arriving off the beaches of Normandy 72 hours later.

He then disembarked on June 13, and moved to Port-en Bessin, a small fishing harbour west of Arromanches where the famous Mulberrry harbour was located . The village was situated to the west of the American sector landing beach named Omaha and to the east of the British-occupied Sword beach – and was taken on D-Day by No 47 Royal Marine Commando during Operation Aubery known as the Battle of Port-En-Bessin.

Mr Browe then moved to various locations across France until October 1944, when his unit moved into Belgium and then Antwerp.

After Victory in Europe day on May 8 1945, he then moved in Germany where he remained until he was demobbed in May 1946 after the war had ended.