Burton Latimer man awarded French honour for his part in D-Day landings

Dennis with French ambassador Sylvie Bermann.
Dennis with French ambassador Sylvie Bermann.

A Burton Latimer man was awarded France’s highest distinction on Armistice Day this week for his part in the Second World War.

Dennis Abbott, 90, was presented with the Légion d’Honneur on Wednesday alongside 19 other veterans for transporting ammunition and petrol in the D-Day landings in June 1944.

Dennis Abbott being presented the award on Wednesday.

Dennis Abbott being presented the award on Wednesday.

Dennis, known by friends as Ginger, landed in France on June 12 aged just 18 and drove a platoon to Brussels, through Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands and then to Berlin.

He did this despite coming under heavy German fire, and more than 70 years later he has now been awarded France’s equivalent of an MBE for his role in France’s liberation.

Dennis says he can still picture the Normandy skyline even now.

He said: “When we arrived the sky was alive with fireworks, I can still see it now.

“When I got there I wasn’t afraid.

“I didn’t know what I was coming into, I was far too young.

“The Légion d’Honneur ceremony was brillant and above my expectations.

“It was very special and top of the bill.”

Dennis attended the ceremony at the French ambassador’s residence in Kensington, London, with 18 other British Second World War veterans and one Australian.

Dennis’ wife Patricia Abbott-Paijmans says the medal will take pride of place at their Burton Latimer home.

She said: “We are very lucky that Dennis is still alive because he had to duck down under heavy shelling.

“We’ve waited so long for him to be awarded this and we didn’t think he would live to see it.

“He arrived six days after D-Day and was very brave, and we had such an exciting day when he got his medal.”

At the ceremony, French ambassador Sylvie Bermann said: “I feel privileged and incredibly moved to award these veterans with France’s highest distinction, which is our way of thanking them for their tremendous service to our country in the Second World War.

“Just as today we remember the fallen of the First World War, so we shall never forget the courage of those who fought for France’s liberation over 70 years ago.

“To them, France owes its freedom.”