A D-Day veteran from Bideford has been awarded the highest decoration in France.

A D-Day veteran has been awarded the highest decoration in France for his contribution towards liberating the country.

Clifford Coates, 90, from Bideford, was appointed to the rank of Chevalier in the Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur – a knight in the National Order of the Legion of Honour – 71 years after the biggest sea-bourne invasion in history.

The then-19-year-old was a sergeant and landing craft coxwain in the Royal Marine’s 41 Commando on June 6, 1944, when the allied forces stormed the Normandy beaches.

Clifford, who still remembers the invasion vividly, said: “It’s marvellous to think at last these medals are coming to fruition, years after we were able to apply for them.

“There are three people in my street who are going to receive them, and a few others in Barnstaple and Instow.

“It makes me very proud, but it is a shame it has been so long – there are not many of us around any more.”

Clifford has been back to visit the Normandy beaches every year since 1944, and on one occasion met the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

On another, he took the holy communion in English while the minister took it in French.

Clifford said he hoped there would be a ceremony at RMB Chivenor in the future to officially present the medals to those who had been honoured.