Bexhill D-Day veteran awarded Legion d’Honneur medal

Graham Warner
Graham Warner

A Bexhill war veteran has been presented with France’s highest military honour for his services in the Second World War.

Graham Warner, 91, was recently awarded the Legion d’Honneur from the French Government, receiving the rank of Chevalier.

The veteran, who lives at Normanhurst Nursing Home in De La Warr Parade, joined the Observer Corps volunteers, aged 17.

After training Graham was appointed to the local Observer post, originally at Ninfield but later to the Cooden Beach Golf Course.

His recollections of D-Day are of his time as a Seaborne Observer on board the Charles Wilson Peale, a liberty ship that had been built in Portland, Oregon, in the USA and was one of the vast flotilla of ships involved in the biggest amphibious landing of all time.

Early in 1944, the Royal Observer Corps had been asked to provide volunteers to join the merchant ships, which would play a pivotal role supplying equipment for the operation. Following training in Bournemouth, Graham was sent to Cardiff. His ship made its first of seven crossings from Southampton to the Normandy beaches on D-Day. His official duty was to advise the captain of the ship on which aircraft were friendly and which hostile.

An overwhelming memory of those days was the noise of the bombs and shells exploding and of the ships all firing their guns, making conversation almost impossible.

Graham kept a log book throughout his time on the Charles Willson Peale, from June 4 to July 18, 1944, detailing the events quite vividly with the air raids, the details of the various aircraft spotted and the journey between Southampton and Omaha beach in Normandy.

Graham remained in the Royal Observer Corps until 1963, having received his Long Service Medal after 20 years’ service and becoming a Leading Observer responsible for training.

The war veteran has been a Bexhill resident all his life, having been educated at Bexhill Grammar School for Boys, joining his father in the family business, Warners Ladies Hairdressing, both in Sidley Street, later moving to Ninfield Road, and Sea Road.

in 2014, French president Francois Hollande pledged to honour all the surviving British veterans who had served in France. Since then, some 2,000 medals have been awarded.

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