A veteran of D-Day has diagnosed his own post-traumatic stress disorder, more than 70 years after enduring the horrors of war.
Frederick Bates, 92, who was awarded the Legion d’Honneur four years ago, recognised he suffered from the stress syndrome after hearing a radio programme.
“It is 72 years since I landed on that beach – which was hell,” he said. “My brother, who was a corporal in the Royal Navy, was on a ship out to sea, shelling the land ahead of us.
“We didn’t know what we were going into. I was one of the few to return and I cannot help thinking of the thousands who are still there.
“I have kept going over what happened and I heard about post-traumatic stress disorder on the radio and realised that that’s what I have had.
“I’m still bothered by it. I lost a lot of friends. You’re one of a crowd and you never know if your next step will be your last.”
One of the memories most vividly etched on Mr Bates’ mind is lying in a ditch with a comrade while a tank nearby was being shelled. As he scrambled out, he turned round to see his friend was dead.
Mr Bates, originally from Handsworth, Birmingham, volunteered to join the army at 14. He was sent away and told to return at 18, which he did, joining up two days after his birthday.
He was part of the 1st Batallion Dorset Regiment which landed on Gold Beach early on June 6, 1944, when he was aged just 19 and two months.
The 4th Dorset Regiment -–the unit which he had originally joined – suffered huge casualties at the notorious Hill 112 a month later.
“The Legion d’Honneur came in 2013 and the year after that I met the Queen in Normandy on the 70th anniversary of D-Day,” he said.
The award is France’s equivalent to Britain’s Victoria Cross. The commendation with it said it was ‘in recognition of your acknowledged military engagement and your steadfast involvement in the liberation of France during the Second World War’.
Mr Bates lives in Banbury and is a retired General Foods storekeeper. He lost his wife, Connie, 20 years ago and his only son, John, lives in Malta.
Mr Bates’ medals, including his British military awards, are kept with his son for safety.