Ray Walter has received the highest honour in French military as a thank you for his service during the Normandy landings on D-Day.
The First Lieutenant in the navy led his ship to the French shores and also brought American troops over to help win the Second World War and 73 years since the battle he has been awarded the Chevalier Order of Légion d’Honneur.
Ray, 92, said: “It is nice of the French to recognise what happened on the beaches and I will the medal with pride.”
The medal was sent from Slyvie Bermann who praised Ray for his efforts during the battle.
She said: “We must never forget heroes like you who came from Britain to begin the liberation of Europe by liberating France. We owe our freedom and security to your dedication, because you were ready to risk you life.”
Ray was the chairman of the Buxton and High Peak branch of the Royal Naval Association for five years and the current chairman Trevor Johnson said: “It is our privilege to have Ray in our branch and we are all thrilled he has received this medal.” Ray met his wife Marion during the war when she was a Wren, and the couple have been married for 69 years. After leaving the navy Ray joined the merchant navy and then he became a rep for Guinness which brought him to Buxton. The dad-of-three said: “Family is so important to us and we are still such a strong unit.” Upstairs in his Cavendish Avenue home Ray has an electric model railway set which he says keeps the family together. He said: “I made a model railway for my children when they were younger and they are helping me with this one. It is nice it has come full circle.”
Ray became a borough councillor in the late 1960s and he campaigned to save the old Playhouse which is now the Pavilion Arts Centre. He also formed the trust which fought to keep the Opera House as a theatre when developers wanted to turn it into a bingo hall.
He added: “When I moved here the town was dying; restaurants and businesses were closing and I’m really proud we said no to the plans and now the opera house is nationally recognised and the town has built up once again.”