On the same day as the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landing – June 6, 1944 – the President of the French Republic bestowed the rank of Chevalier in the L’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur on Sgt. Ernest Freemen (rtd) of the Queens Regiment.
Col. Peter Swanson (rtd) of the Bexhill Veterans Association acting on behalf of the UK Ambassador of France, personally handed the award to Ernest Freemen.
In doing so he reflected the words of the French Ambassador who recognised we must never forget heroes like Ernest, who coming from Britain and the Commonwealth began the liberation of Europe by first freeing France. He added: “We owe our freedom and security to your dedication, because you were ready to risk your life.”
Mr Freemen was born on January 19, 1920 in Little Common, where he grew up to become a horse’s groom. He enlisted in the British Army on April 5, 1937 as Private 6399609 Freemen joining the Sussex Regiment and was promoted to Sgt on October 29, 1948.
Now aged 97, Mr Freemen first enlisted into the British Army 80 years ago, and fought with the 8th Army throughout the Second World War.
He first saw combat action in France, when in 1940, as part of the British expeditionary Force he was evacuated from Dunkirk, with his initial rescue vessel being hit by enemy fire and sunk beneath him.
Mr Freemen was part of General Montgomery’s forces who confronted the might of the German Africa Corps under Field Marshall Rommel, and after he successfully fought across North Africa, he was then moved into Italy, landing at Salerno.
On his eventual return to England he was prepared for the liberation of France and was part of the D-Day landings in the late hours of June 6/7, exactly 73 years ago this week.
He fought across France, was part of the fierce fighting to free Caen, and Normandy, after which with the British army he fought across Belgium, Holland, Northern Germany, into Hamburg and finally into Berlin, where on the surrender of the German forces he was eventually posted to Spandau in a military camp.
On leaving the British Army, Mr Freemen settled back in East Sussex, with a new German wife Kate, and two daughters Renata and Ingrid.
Never moving far from his roots, he took up a career as a chimney sweep and now enjoys a quiet life occupied by reading.
A ceremony took place in Little Common on Tuesday (June 6) to present Sgt Freeman with the deserved honour.
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