'France will never forget'
ONE of the last war veterans who landed at D-Day during World War II has received the French Legion of Honour 73 years after the war ended.
Henry Houldsworth, who lives at Banora Point, was presented with the Legion of Honour earlier this month in a surprise ceremony at Winders retirement village after his son John applied on his behalf.
Born in Southport, Lancashire in 1924, Henry was an apprentice fitter and turner before he joined the Royal Navy where he took a diving course to learn underwater welding, salvage and clearance of explosives.
After finishing the course, he was assigned to the landing craft recovery unit, who he travelled with to D-Day.
Upon landing on Sword Beach, Henry and his squad were tasked with clearing the beach of any sunken or damaged vessels and getting rid of underwater obstacles so that vessels could land directly on the beach.
During this time, the squad was under heavy artillery fire and stayed on the beach for nine weeks before they lodged in Lion-sur-Mer, the first village in France to be liberated.
Two of Henry's brothers, Danny and Bill, also landed at D-Day, while another brother, Bob, died as a prisoner of war in Burma.
Five years later, Henry moved to Australia with his late wife Pat and son John.
They worked and lived all across Australia and Henry was a top soccer player who represented the Royal Navy on several occasions. Henry was also a founding member of Banora Point veterans golf.
His son John said in 2014, the French defence registry estimated there were 5000 veterans still living from the Normandy Landings.
"I was very happy with the presentation, the whole family was there, there was a very fine turnout and it was a very good morning, it was very pleasing," John said.
In a letter from the French Embassy, ambassador Jule Duhaut-Bedos wrote: "France will never forget the thousands of soldiers, like you and your two brothers who were there on D-Day, who came to fight on French battlefields and French people still remain grateful today."
Henry, who never joined the RSL as he was busy working, said he felt "honoured and surprised".
"I feel honoured really, I'm surprised, I've never bothered doing much for myself," he said.