French D-Day medal arrives in the post for Westbourne’s Len

Len Butt, 90, from Westbourne, who served with the 184 Field Company Royal Engineers in the Second World War, has been awarded The Legion D'Honneur ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (151006-6722)
Len Butt, 90, from Westbourne, who served with the 184 Field Company Royal Engineers in the Second World War, has been awarded The Legion D'Honneur ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (151006-6722)

From broken bones to new beginnings

  • Len Butt was an 18-year-old Royal Engineer when he took part in the D-Day landings
  • France honoured British servicemen to mark 70th anniversary of D-Day last year
  • Medal arrived in the post last week
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A VETERAN of the D-Day landings has been awarded France’s highest honour.

Len Butt was an 18-year-old sapper in the Royal Engineers when he was sent to Juno beach in June 1944.

Len Butt, 90, from Westbourne, who served with the 184 Field Company Royal Engineers in the Second World War, has been awarded The Legion D'Honneur ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (151006-6722)

Len Butt, 90, from Westbourne, who served with the 184 Field Company Royal Engineers in the Second World War, has been awarded The Legion D'Honneur ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (151006-6722)

Now 90, he was responsible for clearing the beach of mines and he witnessed horrors which left him with post traumatic stress disorder.

And now he has received the Legion d’Honneur to thank him for his part in Operation Overlord to free Europe from the Nazis – in the post.

The retired builder applied for the medal last year but, despite several letters to the MoD, he heard nothing more about it until it dropped through his letterbox.

He said: ‘I’m glad I’ve got it now. As I understand it the French government had no idea so many people would apply for it and that’s what caused the delay.

I’ve written a polite letter to the French embassy to say thank you. ‘I told them I was pleased to accept the medal under the circumstances

Len Butt

‘I’ve written a polite letter to the French embassy to say thank you.

‘I told them I was pleased to accept the medal under the circumstances.

‘The ordinary people of France must have been grateful for what we did but they should also be very proud of themselves. Many thousands of citizens were killed.’

Modest Mr Butt, of Churchers Road, Westbourne, said of his role in D-Day: ‘It was tough, but I wasn’t the only one doing it. I was part of the Beach Group which was specially-formed for D-Day landings with the infantry to clear the beaches of the mines and obstacles to let the troops advance inland.

‘Psychologically, it was horrendous. If a mine goes off and blows your friend to bits it’s awful. My sergeant got blown up and my platoon officer got shot by a sniper.’

Mr Butt was in France for six months before he was invalided out of the army for what was then termed being ‘bomb happy’ but is now known to be PTSD.

He said: ‘I met a man called Mr Thwaites who knew more about psychology than any other person I have ever met in my life.

‘He said, “If you sit down and feel sorry for yourself you won’t last very long. Take up a challenge”. Which I did’.

Mr Butt never married but has kept busy – leading Sussex and Havant cadets and becoming secretary of Westbourne Cricket Club and Westbourne Social Club.