France’s highest military honour has been bestowed on a Buxton man to thank him for his efforts during the Second World War.
Benjamin Platts, 93, who was presented with his Légion d’honneur medal on Monday, served in the Royal Navy between January 1943 and November 1946 and played a part in the Normandy D-Day landings in 1944.
Benjamin, of Nunsfield Road, said: “I never realised at the time I was part of something important. I was just doing my job and doing my duty.
“In the navy you always obey your last order and during D-Day that was to keep firing at the coastline armoury to back up our boys as they arrived inland.”
Benjamin left school at the age of 14 and worked down the mines for four years, despite having a singing voice so good the local doctor offered to pay for him to go to London for voice training - however he never accepted. He joined the navy just days after his 18th birthday.
“I was 18 and never been kissed,” he joked.
Benjamin was sent aboard HMS Ramillies which had previously been torpedoed in 1942, and formed part of the new crew after the repairs.
“It was a lucky ship,” he said, “apart from two people getting injured there were never any deaths on board and that is because the ship was blessed by a Māori tribe in New Zealand.”
Benjamin said before the ship set sail the Māori blessed the ship; a young choir came aboard to sang and the captain was presented with a grass skirt and was told that as long as the skirt was on the ship everyone would be safe.
Benjamin has had a very lucky life. During training he had his wrong coat on and made a quick change.
When he returned he was in a different place in the line and therefore given a different job, however a colleague who was where he had stood died six weeks later.
He also survived two cave-ins at the pits after the war.
When the ship was decommissioned he took the grass skirt with him and had it framed.
He added: “From the moment you are born your life has been plotted and there is nothing you can do to change that.”
In 1948 Benjamin married his wife Nancy and went on to start a family.
He worked in the pits for several more years and was promoted to mine official. In 1960 he left that world behind and worked on Manchester Liners to America and Canada as a cook.
With relatives in Buxton, Benjamin and his family made the choice to move to the area and opened Ben’s Chippy on Fairfield Road, opposite the Prince of Wales, and kept he people happy and fed for 19 years.
His Légion d’honneur medal was presented to him by a family friend’s mother, Helene Griffin, who had to flee Paris as a teenager because of German invasion.
Benjamin said: “I’ve waited a long time for this, since the French announced they would be honouring all World War Two veterans.
“I’m happy I’ve done my bit but not as proud as I think my dad would have been - the son of a miner done good.”