• James Parry

Legion of Honour medal presented to Hudsonite and D-Day veteran Peter Hughes


PHOTO BY JAMES PARRY

In recognition of his “heroic contribution” to the liberation of France, having landed in his Sherman tank on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day plus 1, Hudsonite Peter Bloor Hughes was awarded the distinguished Legion of Honour medal by the French Government in an emotional ceremony at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #115 in Hudson on Friday, January 8. Shown here with Hughes, who was subsequently severely wounded in battle, are (left to right) Hudson Legion vice-president Rod Hodgson, president Peter Mansel, vice-president Eric Connor, and Hudsonite Dr. Annick Terret-Hans representing the French Consulate General in Montreal with her two-year-old daughter, Maï-Ana.

As a 15-year-old teenager, Hudsonite Peter Bloor Hughes joined the war effort in his native England in 1939 as a messenger in the Air Raid Precautions program that would help people reach the closest shelter and then check their sector putting themselves at risk of bombs, shrapnel and collapsing buildings.

Two years later, he would enlist in the armed forces serving in various units before joining the tank regiment, the 24th Lancers, which would see fierce action during the Normandy invasion in June, 1944, pushing on to Bayeux and then Caen. Just one month later, the Lancers were disbanded because of heavy losses.

He would go on to join the First Battalion of the Royal Tank Regiment fighting all the way to Lisieux, France, where, in August, his Sherman tank was overturned, killing three of his brothers in arms. Seriously wounded and hit by shrapnel, he and one other person escaped, managing to reach an Allied base where they received medical care.

All of these memories came flooding back to Hughes when – in a most emotional ceremony on Friday, January 8, at the Royal Canadian Legion #15 in Hudson - he humbly accepted the Legion of Honour, the highest distinction awarded by France to soldiers who took part in this historic event which led to the liberation of France and Europe.

Making the presentation on behalf of the French Consulate General in Montreal and the French Government, fellow Hudsonite, Dr . Annick Terret-Hans, stated, “France is proud to award the Legion of Honour to Mr. Hughes. The many other distinctions he has received are a testament to his bravery and unwavering commitment to the cause of freedom.

“By making Mr. Hughes and other veterans members of the Legion of Honour, France expresses its tremendous gratitude to these soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy 71 years ago. France recognizes their decisive contribution to the country’s liberation during the Second World War. And today, they are the last representatives of the many young people who joined in the desperate fight against barbarity and Nazism.”

Added Terret-Hans, “Thank you, Peter Bloor Hughes, for your heroic contribution to the liberation of Normandy. France owes you its highest distinction, the Legion of Honour.”

In accepting the medal, a tearful Hughes, said he shared it with all of his comrades who did not return.

“I would like to thank the French Government for this prestigious award and, in addition, a heartfelt thank you to Senator Larry Smith for his most strenuous efforts on my behalf to obtain this medal. Je vous remercie.”

Indeed, this recognition was made possible with the assistance of Senator Smith who also lives in Hudson and who nominated Hughes, and the Canadian Government Department of Veterans Affairs Canada which, together with the British Department of Defence, verified his records.

Said Smith, “It was an honour for me to nominate Mr. Hughes for this prestigious award which recognizes his heroic contribution to the liberation of Normandy. Veterans Affairs Canada was instrumental in coordinating our request with the Government of France. And Nicolas Chapuis, French Ambassador in Canada, was most efficient to ensure we had the medal for this very special occasion in Hudson.”

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