A Second World War veteran from Banbury who was on the beaches of France on D-Day has received a French medal for his efforts despite thinking he would not be alive to collect it.
Gerald Mumby of Keats Road joined the navy when he aged just 17 and was part of a Combined Operations Unit when he landed on Gold Beach near Le Hamel on June 6 1944.
His family applied for him to be awarded the Chevalier de L’Ordre National de la Legion D’Honneur earlier this year more than 70 years after the war ended.
But after not hearing anything for several months Mr Mumby, now aged 90, thought he would get the award post-humously and was surprised when the award turned up in the post last Friday.
He said: “The postman came to the door and asked my wife to sign for a package but we didn’t know what it was for. When we saw the French embassay stamp we knew exactly what it was. I really couldn’t have imagined I would be alive to receive it as we had sent our application back in April so we are all very happy. It is a beautiful medal.”
Mr Mumby was born in Derby in 1925 and volunteered to join the navy aged just 17 years and nine months. He spent his training at HMS Royal Arthur and was stationed up in Glasgow where he also trained as a telegraphist.
As he was moving further down south ahead of the D-Day landings, he passed Exbury House in Hampshire and then to Bournemouth where he made the journey to France.
He said: “I had always wanted to join the navy. I had family that had served in the army during the First World War and knew I wouldn’t want to do that. On our way down we went along Panaroma Road in Bournemouth which was absolutely full of tanks, machines and transport from Southampton. We knew that we were not going to be in France for long as we were only there to drive 25 miles in land so we knew we were coming back.
“As we were travelling towards France there was a few people complaining of seasickness. We were in this big American truck and I can vividly remember the bombadier saying ‘keep the revs going’ as we went onto dry land. We only had a really small windscreen so we had hardly any visibility.”
Along with the latest medal, Mr Mumby also has the Burma Star for his effort in the Far East during the war and also medals for serving in France and Germany as well as a war medal for his contribution.
The modest pensioner lives with his wife Margaret and together they have three children and four grandchildren. He was also given the chance to have his medal formally presented to him at a ceremony in Birmingham. But has chosen to decline it.
He added: “I really thought I was going to get this medal post-humously so I am just happy to have it with me now. I just take what I did for granted really and don’t get worked up about it.”
D-Day is regarded as one of the pivotal moments of the Second World War as it saw the Allied Forces peg Nazi Germany back at the same time Soviet forces were making forward gains to Berlin from the east.