A FORMER police inspector who spent his youth fighting the Nazis in Europe has been presented with France’s highest medal for bravery.
Bernard Cresswell – known to his friends as Barney – was awarded with the Legion d’honneur during a ceremony at Southsea’s D-Day Museum.
It was in recognition of the 90-year-old’s heroism during the Second World War which saw him and his fellow soldiers going toe-to-toe with the Germans.
Speaking of his award, the great grandfather-of-seven said: ‘I was honoured and humbled to be given the medal. A lot of people, who didn’t get to my age, should have got this medal.’
Bernard, who lives in Park Crescent, Emsworth, began his life in the army at the age of 17, in 1943, serving with the Grenadier Guards.
After completing his training he was posted to the Chelsea Barracks of Windsor Castle before joining the 1st Battalion of the newly-formed Guards Armoured Division.
He went to Normandy just after the D-Day landings, in June 1944, as part of the reinforcement for the original invasion force.
From there, he was part of the Allied break-out force, fighting through Normandy, pushing into Belgium and liberating Brussels.
In September 1944, his battalion entered Holland, fighting alongside American paratroopers in the streets of Nijmegen, where the Grenadier tanks of the 2nd Battalion stormed the bridge over the river Waal in a bid to rescue British paratroopers cut off at Arnhem.
Barney recounted how he spent Christmas of 1944 in the Ardennes.
He said: ‘We weren’t battling the enemy here. The biggest challenge was the cold and deep snow.’
Barney left the army in 1947 – although remained as a reservist until 1955.
He joined Sussex Police, serving in Chichester and Horsham before retiring in 1980 as an inspector.
Barney spent a further 10 years working as a security investigations manager for Tesco while volunteering at the Havant base of armed forces charity SSAFA.