War heroes from Aberdeen receive France’s highest honour

Three World War II veterans from Aberdeen were awarded France's highest honour at a ceremony in the city's Town House yesterday (27 October).

Alastair Cormack (94), James Duffus (94) and Robert Lerche (95) were presented with the Legion d'Honneur by the Consul General of France Emmanuel Cocher in recognition of their role in the liberation of the country during World War II.

Alastair Cormack, a Sergeant in the Royal Air Force was in charge of eight men in the defence of airfields in Normandy, maintaining and assembling Bofors 40mm guns.

James Duffus, a Royal Artillery Gunner, landed with 127 Field Regiment Royal Artillery at Bernières-sur-Mer and was part of the Battle for Caen and the liberation of Lisieux and St Valery. He then carried on through France, Holland and Germany.

Robert Lerche, a Lance Bombardier, in the Royal Artillery served with the Royal Horse Artillery on Sword Beach in 1944, where he advanced to Villers-Bocage and Caen then carried on to Hamburg.

In 2014, French President François Hollande announced the country would honour veterans who served in France during World War II. Presentations have been taking place across the country since the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of Aberdeen, the Lord Provost of Aberdeen George Adam said "These brave men put their lives on the line to protect our freedom here at home and to liberate Europe. These awards from the Government of France are a great honour and a reminder to us all of the huge sacrifices made by so many men and women during the conflict."

Consul General of France Emmanuel Cocher said: "I am truly honoured to present the veterans with the Légion d'Honneur. France will never forget the bravery they showed in taking part in the Liberation of France 70 years ago. The actions and sacrifice of these men, and that of so many who fell on the battlefield, was instrumental in bringing back freedom and peace in France and across Europe".

The special ceremony was followed by a civic reception for the three veterans and their families hosted by Aberdeen City Council.