Emsworth veteran who became a dad while fighting the Nazis is presented with the Legion d'Honneur
A D-DAY veteran who celebrated becoming a father while battling the Nazis has been presented with France's highest military honour.
Philip Soper received the Legion d’Honneur during a private ceremony held at the D-Day Museum, in Southsea, yesterday morning.
The 96-year-old, who served in the Royal Artillery in the Second World War, battled through horrific conditions in Normandy, describing it as ‘terrible’.
Now, seven decades on from his fight, heroic Philip told The News it felt ‘incredible’ to be presented with the prestigious medal.
‘It feels absolutely fantastic,’ said Philip, of Emsworth.
‘I felt that I did a good job. I never regretted getting called up.’
Philip joined the army in May 1940. By the time of D-Day in 1944, he was a 24-year-old gunner with 15th Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery. He landed on King Sector of Gold Beach on June 7, after which his unit supported British and Canadian troops in the area.
He was the number two of a 10-man team firing a 5.5 inch gun.
The most memorable moment of his wartime service came almost 72 years ago.
The date was August 20, 1944 and Philip was stationed just outside the French coastal city of Caen.
It was here that his commanding officer broke the news of the birth of Philip’s two daughters, Maureen and Thelma.
‘I couldn’t believe it,’ said Philip.
‘My commanding officer said to me: “Philip, you can fire the first salvo (at the Germans) tonight”.’
Philip fought all the way through the war.
He survived a shell attack on his position which killed two of his best friends.
After storming Germany and helping to claim victory against Hitler, he spent a short stint in Palestine before leaving the army in 1946.
Philip moved to his family home in Record Road, Emsworth, where he has been for 54 years.
He was married to his late wife Lydia for 65 years.
Together the couple had five children, 10 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
Some of his family were there to watch him being presented with his medal by Consul Honoraire of France, Captain Francois Jean and Hampshire’s deputy lieutenant Colonel Charles Ackroyd.
Captain Jean said: ‘You are a true hero and will be our hero forever.
‘We French will never forget what you did to restore our freedom.’
The medal has been offered to all surviving Allied servicemen who fought to liberate France.