Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur for Falkirk D-Day veterans

Alexander Govan 99, from Longcroft and Walter Sharp 101, from Camelon received France's highest commendation at a special ceremony on board French naval warship Aquitaine. Picture: Michael Gillen
Alexander Govan 99, from Longcroft and Walter Sharp 101, from Camelon received France's highest commendation at a special ceremony on board French naval warship Aquitaine. Picture: Michael Gillen

Two old soldiers from Falkirk had their role in the D-Day landings recognised at a special ceremony last Friday.

Walter Sharp (101) and Alexander Govan (99) were the oldest of nine veterans invited on board a French naval warship to receive the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest commendation.

The pair travelled with their families to Leith where the destroyer Aquitaine was docked to take part in the official ‘thank you’ for their part in the liberation of Europe over 70 years ago.

In 2014, the French Government announced it would recognise D-Day veterans for their part in the 1944 Normandy landings and wider campaign to liberate France from the Nazi occupation and special ceremonies have been taking place throughout the country.

Their medals were presented by Rear Admiral Patrick Chevallereau and Emmanuel Cocher, Consul General of France in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The rear admiral said he was honoured to thank the veterans on behalf of his country.

He said: “Gentlemen from Britain, gentlemen from Scotland, you are the witnesses to a glorious history you wrote on our soil, in France. I am truly honoured to stand before you.

“Your presence today on the flight deck of the Aquitaine is the demonstration entrusting the flame of remembrance to the younger generations so that they may keep it alive, nurture it and help it grow just as our parents and grandparents did.”

Walter Sharp was a 26-year-old Camelon storeman when he volunteered to join the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in 1940.

He saw action in North Africa and Italy before returning to the UK to prepare for the military action that would change the course of the war.

On D-Day Plus 3, Corporal Sharp and thousands of fellow soldiers landed on Gold Beach. They fought their way through France, Belgium, Holland and into Germany to help bring the conflict to an end.

He had married Doris, weeks before being sent across the Channel, and the couple were together for 46 years.

After being demobbed he returned to Camelon and work in the foundry before joining bus builder Walter Alexander.

Son Brian said his father was “very pleased and proud” to receive his award to add to his collection of other war medals.

Alexander Govan was involved in Operation Overlord from day one.

He was called up in 1942 and after basic training was posted to the 38th Signal Training Regiment Royal Artillery. After officer training he was promoted to Lieutenant and two years later transferred to the infantry and joined the 5th Battalion, Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders 51st Highland Division.

He landed on Sword Beach on June 6 and with his comrades fought his way through France and Holland. By VE Day his company had reached Cuckshaven in Germany.

After the war he returned to his career in the police, serving in Edinburgh, Stirling, Denny and Bannockburn.

He lives with wife Hellen in Longcroft and it was their children, Catherine and Andrew who were instrumental in applying for this latest honour.

Catherine said: “He has many stories to tell about his life in the regiment but, like so many of his generation, prefers not to retell some of the things they saw and experienced. Obviously, we are all very proud of him.”