Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

France's Highest Honour Given to D-Day Veteran

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

France's Highest Honour Given to D-Day Veteran

Article excerpt

Byline: Brian Daniel Northumberland reporter

AD-DAY veteran from Northumberland has been given a top military honour by the French for helping liberate their country more than 70 years ago.

Joseph Riley, 92, from West Sleekburn near Ashington, risked his life in the landings at Normandy on June, 6 1944 - spending three hours helping soldiers ashore from a boat under enemy fire.

Now, 71 years later, he has received a medal - in the post - from the French in recognition of his contribution to the Allied liberation of their country, of which D-Day was the start.

Joe has been appointed to the rank of chevalier - or knight - in the Ordre national de la Legion d'honneur - the National Order of the Legion of Honour.

Born at Barrington Colliery near Bedlington, Joe worked as a driller down the mines at Ellington, Bedlington and Netherton before and after the Second World War, and was also a French polisher, working at a shipyard in Walker as well as a spell living in London.

He was married to his late wife Muriel, with whom he had four children - David, Alan, Elaine and Kevin, who have given him 13 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.

During the war, he trained as an electrician with Combined Operations and was involved in bringing boats back to the UK from America, including the Queen Mary.

He was travelling on the vessel when it collided with an English cruise ship, with the loss of 70 sailors.

Joe was also on boats which took soldiers to invasions, at not only Normandy, but also Sicily, Italy and North Africa, and would return home with prisoners of war.

But it was D-Day that has now earned Joe his latest recognition.

After the planned invasion of June 5 had been put back 24 hours due to bad weather, he was on one of the first boats to land at Sword Beach.

He was in the water helping soldiers off the vessel when it was struck by an enemy shell, luckily, when it was almost empty. …

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