D-Day landings veteran Russell Dunkeld has been honoured in a ceremony to mark his bravery during World War Two.
Russell, 89, has terminal cancer and his family is desperately trying to get his Legion d’Honneur medal – France’s top military honour – to recognise his actions as a teenager during World War Two.
It was a wonderful day, Dad really enjoyed himself and he can’t stop looking at the medal now.
Widowed father-of-two Russell, who lives in Lancaster, was just 18 when he took part in the D-Day landings and, aboard HM Landing Ship (tank) 304, was one of the first to arrive on French soil at Sword Beach on June 6, 1944.
His family organised a “mock” ceremony with the help of museum curator Peter Donnelly from the King’s Own museum in Lancaster to award him with a temporary Legion d’Honneur medal on Monday, in lieu of his own.
Russell was joined at the museum by family members, as well as Lancashire Fire Brigade representatives, who chatted to him about his time as a firefighter after the war.
Russell’s son, also called Russell, said: “It was a wonderful day, Dad really enjoyed himself and he can’t stop looking at the medal now.
“We wholly understand that the delay by the French authorities has been unavoidable.
“Far more applications than expected were received. We respect the French for recognising the debt owed by them to British veterans in this way.
As an Acting Able Seaman in the Royal Navy, Russell was a medic/stretcher bearer with the role of collecting the wounded from the beaches and conveying them back to the ship for medical treatment
The Legion D’Honneur is the highest award which France can bestow and we are grateful for the French nation’s expression of gratitude.
Requests for the Legion d’Honneur award are being processed by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), who then forward the details to the French authorities to make the final decisions on the awards. An MOD spokesman said they were “working hard” to process the 2,700 applications.