D-DAY veteran George Higgins beams with pride as he wears the medals he waited a lifetime for.
After a 69-year-wait, the 96-year-old’s bravery in the Second World War was recognised as he received his British medals from Colonel Mike Tanner, Captain of Portsmouth Naval Base.
George risked his own life for his country on June 6, 1944, when he was coxswain of one of the landing craft that had to make the treacherous journey to the Normandy beaches.
In atrocious weather, George’s landing craft was lucky to escape being hit by enemy shell fire in the decisive battle.
The skill of the coxswains and skippers of the small ships played a major part in the success of the landings.
But George left the Royal Marines in 1947 and returned to his farming life in Denmead.
He could have picked up the medals in 1947, but in his own words, he said ‘he did not really deserve them’.
But, at yesterday’s ceremony at St Peter’s and St Paul’s Church in Hambledon, Colonel Tanner told George: ‘Not only do I think you deserve these medals, but the nation thinks you deserve these medals.’
Dozens of villagers from Hambledon came to watch the moment and there was rapturous applause for George.
George, who lives in Hambledon, told The News: ‘I’m not a hero.
‘We did what we had to do.
‘It was so long ago. It was frightening. There was so much death and so many people were killed.’
George was awarded the 1939-1945 Star, Europe Star, the 1939-1945 medal, and the Defence medal, as well as the prestigious Légion d’Honneur, a French honour which was recently bestowed on him.
He added: ‘I’m really pleased.’
George enjoyed a tot of rum after the ceremony, poured by Colonel Tanner.
His wife, Molly Higgins, 96, said: ‘I think he deserves it. He would never say he was a hero, but I think he was. I’m very proud.’
The ceremony was arranged by Captain Paul Quinn, a Hambledonian and general secretary of the Royal Naval Association.
He said: ‘I was astonished he had not received his campaign medals.’
Captain Quinn said Colonel Tanner presenting the ‘beautiful medals’ was ‘wonderful recognition of George’s contribution to the defence of our country’.
Tony Higham, who lives in Hambledon and is a former Royal Navy commander, said: ‘It’s lovely. He’s so deserving.’