Galashiels veteran, aged 96, is awarded France's highest honour
A veteran from Galashiels was awarded the French Legion of Honour in a ceremony in his home town on Monday.
John Webster – known to all as Jackie – received the award from Emeline Javierre, the vice consul to France in Edinburgh, for his service during the Second World War.
Ninety-six-year-old Jackie and fellow 6th Battallion Kings Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) veteran George Coltman (95) – whose application for the Legion of Honour is currently being processed – laid a wreath to their fallen comrades at the town’s war memorial before the presentation and lunch in Quins restaurant.
Two years ago, on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, French President Francois Hollande declared that the medal would be awarded to those British soldiers who helped in the liberation of France from the Nazi regime.
Mme. Javierre, who travelled from Edinburgh to pin the medal onto Jackie’s lapel, said: “The Légion d’honneur was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte and it is the highest French award for military and civil merits.
“France will never forget the gallantry and bravery veterans showed when taking part in the liberation 72 years ago.
“This ceremony today is not only an expression of our gratitude to men who were ready to give their lives, it is also a message to each of us that we in Europe shall never forget what they did.
“It is a real honour for me today to present John Webster with the Legion of Honour.”
Jackie was in the Territorial Army before the war, and after that he and his brother signed up and joined 6KOSB – which took part in the Normandy landings on ‘D-Day plus six’ as part of the 44th Brigade in the 15th (Scottish) Division in June 1944, and saw action at the Battle for Caen later that month before progressing through France, Belgium, and Holland into northern Germany as the war ended.
Jackie and his wife Mae attended the presentation with their three children John, Dave and Lesley. The couple also have seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Asked how it felt to be receiving the award, Jackie said: “I’m absolutely thrilled. George and I were in the same unit ... but it was all such a long time ago.
“But it’s really good to be here and meet all these people.”
Eldest son John, 63, said: “We are hugely proud that dad is being given this award from the French people.
“We are extremely honoured that Emeline came down today to present him with the Légion d’honneur.
“And we are indebted to Michael Hall and the 6th Battallion Reunion Club for allowing this to happen.
“My dad said the award is for the whole of the battallion who fought through France ... he and George just happen to be the only ones left alive here.”