Pendle D-Day veterans honoured with Legion d’honneur

Ralph Woolnough (left), from Blacko, and Charles Webb. from Foulridge, have received their Legion d'honneur medals from the French government for their efforts during D-Day. (S)
Ralph Woolnough (left), from Blacko, and Charles Webb. from Foulridge, have received their Legion d'honneur medals from the French government for their efforts during D-Day. (S)
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Two D-Day heroes from Pendle have been honoured by the French government for their efforts more than 70 years ago.

Ralph Woolnough (90), of Gisburn Road, Blacko, and Charles Webb (91), of Sycamore Rise, Foulridge, have received the Legion d’honneur, the highest French medal for military or civil merit.

The French government has moved to honour those surviving veterans who were among the first to liberate Nazi-occupied Europe on June 6th, 1944.

Mr Woolnough, was a seaman aboard the destroyer HMS Kelvin on D-Day, while Mr Webb was a 19-year-old Royal Marine who waded on to the beach.

Ably assisted by the Royal British Legion’s Michael Sutcliff who helped arrange the request of the medals, and with the help of MP Andrew Stephenson who hurried the process along when paperwork went missing, the two veterans met on Sunday.

In the process of verifying that they were on Sword Beach on June 4th, 1944, they both recalled the same story to Mr Sutcliff about seeing a Norwegian ship sunk by a torpedo close to the beach.

Mr Webb said: “It’s absolutely great to have the medal, I’m over the moon. You didn’t have time to be scared, you just had to get on with it.”

Mr Webb’s daughter Lourain Hill, added: “During the chaos, he got separated from the rest of the men and he was reported as ‘missing in action’. A few days later when he walked through the door, his mother couldn’t believe it. He’s been asking every day about if the medal had arrived in the post. The whole family is absolutely ecstatic and very proud.”

Mr Sutcliff said: “It’s a good to see these gentlemen receive their medals and I’m pleased we could help. We are all aware of the efforts made on D-Day and the danger they faced right across the board.

“Many of these men are now in their 90s, but at the time they were men in their teenage years or early 20s and one has to ask could we expect that kind of duty again? They were so brave, and it must have been incredibly frightening, yet when you ask them about it they are so nonchalant about just getting on with it.”