A man who put his life on the line whilst serving in the Royal Navy during the Second World War has been awarded France’s highest military honour.
Walter Walker enlisted in 1941 at the age of 18 as a Defensively Equipped Merchant Ship Gunner, guarding convoys.
The 93-year-old of Howley Street, Batley, was engaged in theatres of war all over the world.
But it was for his role in the D-Day Landings in 1944 that he has been appointed the rank of Chevalier in the Order of the Legion D’Honneur. A modest Mr Walker said he was grateful to receive the award but said those who gave their lives were more deserving.
He said: “The D-Day landings were bad with lots of ships packed tight and shells flying over. We were always on the lookout to recover bodies from the sea. It was a bad time with all those ships sunk and lives lost. It’s nice that people recognise our efforts and all the sacrifices that people made.”
Mr Walker’s son Stephen wrote to the French Embassy and Ministry of Defence to see if his veteran father was eligible for the award. The French President wrote to Mr Walker, thanking him for helping to liberate France and presenting him with the medal.
Mr Walker said he was no stranger to the dangers at sea. On a voyage earlier in his service, he was travelling from Loch Ewe in Scotland when his convoy came under attack. The ships scattered - some were lost and others diverted.
He survived but no one had contacted his family in the 18 months he was away.
He said: “My family thought that I had been killed and my mother sold all of my clothes and spent all my money.
“When I came back from that journey, I got the train to Leeds and got a ride in a paper truck to Dewsbury. I had to walk with a huge kit bag to Batley.
“When I knocked on the door at 6 o’clock in the morning my sister almost collapsed with shock.
“I was in the Navy from age 18 to 23, the best years of my life. I didn’t see the fear though, I seemed to know I would get back.”