Andy Nicholl, who was born and raised in Islandmore, just outside Portrush, was last week awarded the Legion d’honneur, France’s highest honour.
The local man was one of 23 former servicemen who gained the recognition at a special ceremony held at Thiepval barracks in Lisburn last week.
The 90-year-old, who served with the Royal Ulster Rifles was sent a letter back in November from the French Ambassador in London confirming that he had been given the honour. In 2014, French President François Hollande announced the country would honour veterans who served in France during World War II.
“Thousands went to war and played their role in the liberation of France, but sadly they are not here to get this award,” said Andy, who joined the Royal Ulster Rifles at just 16.
Having left Carnalridge School at 14, Andy took up employment in Maxwell’s Quarry.
“Before I knew it I was in the Home Guard holding a rifle with one hundred rounds of ammunition at the age of 16,” said the veteran.
“Going to war was just something that you did in those days.
“There was nothing else for the young men to do.
“We grew up with it, my father and my uncle had fought for the Ulster Rifles in the First World War, sadly my uncle didn’t come home.
“I landed in a glider plane in France on what we call the Longest Day, June 6, 1944.
“I then took part in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and was wounded at the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945.
“That’s a day I will never forget, that was my worst memory of the war,” admitted the former rifle man.
He went on to serve in Belgium, in Palestine and in Egypt, but he was keen to play down his role as a soldier.
“I am no hero, you had a deed to do and you did it,” said Andy.