Dennis Small ‘proud and amazed’ after receiving highest French honour

A D-Day veteran has received France’s highest distinction for his efforts in Normandy.

Dennis Small, who was 19 at the time of the invasion, has been appointed to the rank of Chevalier in the Ordre national de la Legion d’honneur.

The 90-year-old from Fremington said he was ‘proud and amazed’ to be given the honour.

As a marine, he took part in the largest ever seaborne invasion on June 6, 1944.

Initially a hand on one of the craft, Mr Small’s coxswain collapsed, meaning he then took charge before leaving the Solent river in Southampton.

“I think we were a bit young and naive to be honest,” said Mr Small.

“But it was the weather that distressed us the most – we were glad to get off that sea.”

Mr Small’s craft got separated from the rest of the craft in his flotilla over the Channel, after losing a propellor and a rudder during the crossing.

He was only able to guide his craft during the night thanks to the start of the bombardment by allied forces.

He was able to land his craft on Gall beach, where he and his crew secured the beach before ferrying men and materials from ship to shore for six weeks.

A ceremony to officially present medals to those honoured is set to take 
place on April 14 at RMB Chivenor.

The French president announced on D-Day 2014 that veterans could apply for the distinction, to commemorate the liberation of France.

Mr Small, who was in Normandy for the president’s announcement, said: “It’s taken a long time to get here, but we’ll say no more about that – they got there.”