A 93-year-old Kenilworth war veteran who survived the D-Day landings was honoured at a special ceremony held at Kenilworth Castle on Tuesday December 6.
Bernard Stone, of Faircroft, a wireless telegraphist in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, was presented with a medal to recognise his appointment to the rank of Chevalier in the French Ordre national de la Legion d’honneur.
The medal was given to Bernard by the French honorary consul Robert Mille during the ceremony in the castle’s gatehouse.
Upon receiving the medal, Bernard became visibly emotional and said he was ‘a little bit overcome.’ He also described the medal as ‘a very proud honour’.
The medal, which for a long time was only given to French soldiers, was made available to all British soldiers who fought for France’s liberation during the war after current president Francois Hollande decided they should be honoured for the role they played.
Bernard was underage when he registered in the Navy in 1941 at just 17 years old, describing it as the first important decision he ever made.
He said he was lucky to survive D-Day in 1944 when the boat he was on was torn apart, although he did not know exactly how it happened.
He said: “There was a loud thump. I thought that we had hit another craft, so I poked my head out to see. Half the boat was gone.
“We were either hit by a shell or we landed on a mine, I’m not sure. All I knew was the boat was upright and the water was on fire. No one was left that I could see.
“I was very lucky I suppose, but you don’t think about it that much. If you do you’ll go mad.
“A frigate or destroyer picked me up and the crew fed me some hot cocoa and rum. The rest of the day is a complete mystery to me - I can only think it was shock that took over.”
Despite Bernard’s ordeal, he was back in action on another boat a day later.
Barbara Stone, married to Bernard for 37 years, said: “I’m extremely proud that he gets a medal from the French government.
“Obviously the French soldiers were fighting for their country and any help we could give them was well received.”
Alongside Barbara, around 20 members of Bernard’s family, including his great-grandson Edward, turned out to watch him receive his medal.
His granddaughter Samantha Kington said he was her ‘hero’. She added: “It’s a rarity these days to say you’re related to somebody who has done something like that.
“I’m just honoured to be his granddaughter really. He was a very brave man.”