Top Honour for Herbert
A Long Eaton war veteran who served with the Royal Navy during World War Two - laying smoke trails to hide boats from the enemy’s sight - has been awarded France’s highest honour, the Legion D’Honneur.
Great grandfather Herbert Thorpe, 95, joined the navy at the age of 18. He was part of a crew of 21 on board Motor Torpedo Boat V 696 which laid a smoke path for the armada in the course of the D-Day landings so the Germans couldn’t see the vessels approaching French shores.
Mr Thorpe, known as Bert, served four years with the coastal forces and was part of Operation Overlord. He said: “There were five boats in total, we more or less took the armada across on D-Day. We protected the Minesweepers, which turned back half way and left us to it. I mainly served on torpedoes - we were called the pirates of the navy.
He recalls: “The skipper would start counting to ten and all of a sudden the two battle wagons opened up. Our job was to protect the fleet. I could fire every gun, every torpedo, everything.
The Legion D'Honneur Medal is the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits. There are five grades of the medal and Mr Thorpe has received the top one – The Knight. It recognises his military engagement and steadfast involvement in the Liberation of France during the Second World War.
He will be presented with the honour by Monsieur Jean-Claude LaFontaine, the Honorary Consul for the East Midlands, at a special ceremony at Long Eaton Town Hall at 10.30am on February 28.
Councillor Chris Corbett, Mayor of Erewash, said:
“Mr Thorpe received the medal in the post with a letter. Councillor John Sewell is a friend of Mr Thorpe’s and when he found out he had received the medal he went about organising an official presentation to recognise his bravery and the role he played in the liberation of France. It will be an honour to see Mr Thorpe officially presented with the Legion D’Honneur.”
After the war Mr Thorpe went on to work for a gas company and was also a professional dancer with his late wife, Irene.
He said: “When the war finished I got a job and signed my papers to go back to the navy but was persuaded by my mother not to go back, so that was that.”
A letter from the French Embassy to Mr Thorpe, states: “We owe our freedom and security to your dedication, because you were ready to risk your life.”