A Royal Navy veteran whose ship played a key role in the D-Day landings has been awarded France’s top decoration for his bravery.
Eric Drube from Bletchley was presented with the Legion d’Honneur in Central London by the French Ambassador Bernard Emie, along with three fellow veterans, for his courage in the Second World War.
At the age of 20 Eric served aboard HMS Cockatrice, an Algerine Class Fleet Minesweeper, as part of the 18th Minesweeping Flotilla.
And last Wednesday the 90-year-old was appointed to the rank of Chevalier (Knight) by the President of France during a ceremony in Carlton Gardens, St James’s, by the statue of General De Gaulle.
“We sailed from
Portsmouth the evening before the D-Day landings on June 5, 1944 and our Flotilla swept and cleared mines for Channel 6 for Gold Beach ahead of Assault Force G – The British 50th Infantry
Division,” said Eric.
“The Germans didn’t even know we were there. Ten channels for the five landing beaches had to be swept by Minesweeping Flotillas. “Without the channels being cleared of mines for the assault beaches, no landings could have taken place.
“I’ll never forget the morning of D-Day on the June 6. First thing all of our bombarding ships – Battleships,Cruisers, and Destroyers and Rocket Ships began to fire on German positions.
“We then laid a smokescreen with other vessels to assist with the landing craft going ashore with our troops. We then used our own 4in gun to target German positions. Despite suffering from seasickness I stayed at my post.
“The sea conditions were still poor and D-Day had been put back one day, but we had to go ahead and there would not have been another opportunity to effectively carry out the largest invasion in history.
“The days and weeks after D-Day were spent providing close support and defending against German E-Boats and manned torpedoes.
“One of these torpedoes hit a fellow Minesweeper and I assisted with picking up
“It was a very special day in London and a great honour to receive such a high award from France.”
Former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon told a large audience: “To the veterans, their families, and the British people, France offers her eternal gratitude.”