France gives George its highest honour

Normandy veteran George Coltman, 95, from Galashiels, said he was “thrilled and proud” to receive France’s highest honour.

Watched by his family, the former printer was presented with the Legion D’Honneur by the French Consul General for Scotland, Emmanuel Cocher, on Tuesday, at Quins restaurant in his home town.

Apprentice printer George joined the 4th battalion KOSB before the Second World War broke out in 1939, and went on to join the 6th battalion.

He trained extensively in the UK before being part of the Normandy landings on D-Day.

The battalion fought their way inland and saw action at the Battle for Caen later that month and then advanced into Germany.

After the war, George settled back into his old job.

Monsieur Cocher said: “The President of France made the decision in 2014, on the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, that all British veterans who had taken part in the D-Day landings and the subsequent liberation of France would be eligible to receive the Legion D’Honneur, which is our highest honour.”

He went on: “It is my great pleasure to be introduced to so many communities in the country in order to pay our respects and to give this honour to these gentlemen who fought so bravely and so gallantly in World War II. France collapsed as a nation and this collapse has scarred our national pride. Our institutions, our army, our country, were blanked out on the map for five years.

“That is why France has been extremely grateful, from the start, towards all who took part in its liberation.”

M. Cocher talked about the recent attacks in France and the threats to peace, and how they were linked to what happened in the last century.

Addressing George, he said: “We need freedom fighters, we need people who want to uphold our values, our institutions and our democratic life, and you were one of them, Mr Coltman, and that is why we are so grateful that the next generations are here as well, as they will have to take up the fight, now, and in the future.”

Presenting the medal, M. Cocher addressed George in French and then English, saying: “George Coltman, in the name of the president of the French Republic, and by virtue of the powers conferred upon us, we make you Knight of the Order of the Legion d’Honneur.”

George said: “I am very honoured to receive this medal and I am glad that my family is here to see it.

“I am thrilled and proud that the Consul General has come to present it to me.”