Ron Murray of Redcar, was today presented with the highest honour France can bestow the Legion d'Honneur, by local MP Anna Turley.
The award was established by Napoleon in 1802 and is rarely given to non-French nationals, but to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day this special medal is being awarded to veterans who helped in any way in the liberation of France. As Ron is the first publicly named resident of Redcar & Cleveland to receive this honour, he was presented with his medal by Anna at a civic reception held at Redcar's Community Heart building.
Ron is a retired housing manager for the predecessor authorities of Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council. He grew up in Eston and was very keen to join the RAF, but initially was refused, because he was too young. He persevered and became an electrician working on a variety of aircraft, including Lancasters, Spitfires and Hurricanes. He was stationed for a time at RAF Middleton St. George and it was while he was there he attended a Middlesbrough Town Hall dance where he met his future wife Marie, who was home from teacher training college. They married in 1948 and have 3 children. They still live in their own home in Redcar.
Ron’s son Nick applied for the medal on his father’s behalf in August 2014. After a few months the MOD confirmed Ron’s eligibility but they did not hear anything for another year. By this stage Ron was 94 and had some health issues so Nick contacted Anna to see if anything could be done to speech up the process. Within a few weeks Ron was sent the award from the French Ambassador's office in London.
"My father didn't really talk about what he had done in the run up to D-Day. It was only when the commemoration events took place that he told us anything. He is a modest man, in fact he didn't get round to collecting his war time medals until 2013 when they were presented to him."
"When I knew my dad was possibly going to receive the Legion d'Honneur award I started researching his RAF records. I contacted a military archivist based at Kew where the National Archives are stored. My father was a corporal and was stationed at a variety of different air bases in Oxfordshire and some near Bath. I visited one of his former bases myself last summer, RAF Harwell, where gliders and paratrooper transport planes took off on the 5th & 6th June 1944. The soldiers on board landed near key German installations and were tasked to destroy them to help the allies in the D-Day landings. My research really brought home, how important the RAF's role was and what an integral part air supremacy was to the success of D-Day landings and Operation Overlord."
"I'm very surprised and pleased to receive the award. In the run up to D-Day all leave was cancelled. We knew something big was about to happen, but we didn't know what. It was all about team work really, we had to get every aircraft we had fully air worthy for the D-Day landings".
“It was a privilege to present Ron with this prestigious award in recognition of his contribution to the D-Day landings. Without the hard work of people like Ron, RAF aircraft would not have been able to conduct their operations effectively. This award is particularly special because it is so rarely given to non-French nationals.
It was also great to see children from Normanby Primary involved and I hope they are inspired by Ron’s achievements.”