Belper man awarded France’s highest military honour for his role in securing peace in Europe

Eric Redman will be the guest of honour at a ceremony to mark him being awarded the Legion D'honneur by France.
Eric Redman will be the guest of honour at a ceremony to mark him being awarded the Legion D'honneur by France.

A 93-year-old former airman will this weekend be lauded for the role he played in the 
D-Day landings 71 years ago.

Belper Royal British Legion branch president Eric Reedman will be guest on honour at the ‘Night to Remember’ concert which will take place on Saturday night at St Peter’s Church, on Chesterfield Road.

Eric Redman will be the guest of honour at a ceremony to mark him being awarded the Legion D'honneur by France.

Eric Redman will be the guest of honour at a ceremony to mark him being awarded the Legion D'honneur by France.

The ceremony is a response to Eric and all other servicemen who fought during the D-Day campaigns being awarded the Legion d’honneur by France, the country’s highest military honour.

He said: “I was very pleasantly surprised when I heard I had been awarded the honour.

“We heard via the newspapers that it was the French President’s intention to give the award, but in the end it arrived in a sort of jiffy bag by courier from the French Embassy.

“It is very different from my other medals - it sits on the right breast pocket as opposed to the left and the metal portion of it is double sided. It’s very nice.

“My memories of the time are never very far away - and events like this keep it at the forefront.”

At Saturday’s ceremony, local band Derwent Brass will perform a congratulary concert before the Mayor of Belper leads a service of thanks.

Eric got to France on D-10 - ten days after the main landings - and landed into four feet of water from one of the landing craft transports that ferried servicemen to the Normandy beaches.

The award came about after the French government informed the UK of its wish to recognise the ‘selfless acts of heroism and determination displayed by all surviving veterans of the Normandy landings, as well as the wider campaigns to liberate France in 1944’.

Organiser of the Belper Poppy Appeal, Les Harrison, said: “It is people like Eric who make me proud to be British.

“He deserves this award and if the French can thank him for his contribution towards peace in Europe then I’m sure the people of Belper would echo those sentiments.”

The concert will begin at 7.30pm at St Peter’s Church, on Chesterfield Road in Belper. Tickets are available from the Derwent Brass website at www.derwentbrass.co.uk.

Eric Reedman’s life and times

Born in 1922, Eric Reedman left school at the age of 14 and worked for four years as a shop assistant.

In 1941 he volunteered to serve in the wartime RAF ‘for the duration of the present emergency’.

In actual fact, Eric finally left the airforce in 1976, 35 years later.

His first posting was to HQ No.5 Group Bomber Command in Grantham, sorting secret and official mail.

He then became an Aircraftman First Class in June 1943 and joined the formation of the Advanced HQ 80 Wing and began training in the arts of invasion tactics.

It was planned that Eric should have landed in Normandy on D-Day but, because of foul weather conditions, it wasn’t until ten days later, on June 15, that he did so.

Then, 13 vehicles of Eric’s unit made a wet-shod landing on ‘H-beach’ and started their year-long campaign to liberate France.