BIRTHDAYS for Trevor Watson should be a cause for celebration.
But for the 89-year-old veteran, it only brings back traumatic memories of D-Day and when he was fighting for his life.
The Stubbington resident marked his 18th birthday on June 6, 1944 – the dawn of the assault.
Now, more than 70 years on from that battle, his heroism has been rewarded by the French government who presented him with their highest military honour – the Legion d’honneur.
Trevor’s son-in-law, Lietenant Commander David Wright said: ‘When the medal came through the post he just sounded as if he lost 20 years of his life; he was just over the moon.’
Trevor, of Mancroft Avenue, joined the navy in 1943, aged 17.
He became a signalman in the Royal Naval Patrol Service, and worked on minesweepers.
He was one of the first people to enter the Channel on the eve of D-Day. His ship was tasked with clearing a path through the minefields off the coast of Normandy.
Lt Cdr Wright – who himself is a mine clearance diving officer with the Royal Navy – added: ‘The commanding officer of his ship said to him: “If you survive today’s events you will no longer be a boy signalman, you will be a signal man”.’
During the invasion, Trevor’s ship narrowly avoided being torpedoed by a German U-Boat.
Trevor is just one of a number of veterans from Portsmouth to be being rewarded by the French.
According to campaign group Pompey Pals, there are about a dozen still living in the city who will receive the accolade.
Co-founder of the group, Chris Pennycock, has been helping to get the veterans their medals.
He said there had been a number of delays in receiving the awards, which he said was disappointing.
However, Chris added he was keen to help other D-Day veterans in collecting their awards.
Those who need Chris’ assistance can call him on 07982 402229.