D-day veteran from Melton receives France’s highest military honour

Melton man Maurice Darker is presented with his medal and certificate by Midlands region French consol Jean-Claude Lafontaine EMN-160419-151849001
Melton man Maurice Darker is presented with his medal and certificate by Midlands region French consol Jean-Claude Lafontaine EMN-160419-151849001
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Maurice was shocked he was the only person there to receive the Legion d’honneur for his involvement in the liberation of France during the Second World War.

Melton man Maurice Darker is pictured here with his wife, Joan, and family, members of the Royal British Legion, Midlands region French Consol Jean-Claude Lafontaine and the Deputy Lieutenant of Leicestershire David Wryko. EMN-160419-152517001

Melton man Maurice Darker is pictured here with his wife, Joan, and family, members of the Royal British Legion, Midlands region French Consol Jean-Claude Lafontaine and the Deputy Lieutenant of Leicestershire David Wryko. EMN-160419-152517001

But he had another big surprise in store when his family, including son Michael who had travelled all the way from Australia, turned up to witness his big moment.

Other family present included Maurice’s wife, Joan, (93), with the couple having been married for 72 years.

Their love blossomed from when Joan was nursing in a military hospital which Maurice went into injured after coming off his motorbike while serving as a despatch rider. Despatch riders were used by armed forces to deliver urgent orders and messages between headquarters and military units. They had a vital role at a time when telecommunications were limited and insecure.

On leaving the hospital Maurice returned to his squadron, the 55 Squadron Royal Engineers. Very soon after it was the D-Day invasion.

Maurice and his squadron made their way to France where they landed on Gold Beach near Arromanches. On landing in France they began to build a large water filtering machine for the troops. They also started to build bridges for transport across rivers.

Maurice then received his motorbike, as he was a despatch rider, and he carried a nine millimetre Sten gun - a light machine gun - with him as he was sent on missions.

He said: “I was told time and again to keep my eyes and ears open because there was an enemy group in our section.”

Maurice fought through France, Belgium and Holland and then into Germany. After Germany Maurice said he was among about 20 ‘nomads’ heading for Japan but on their way there the Americans dropped the atomic bomb so they weren’t needed.

Maurice was transferred to the 5th Engineer Squadron and he was then taken to Egypt and onto Palestine and later Jerusalem before he eventually returned home and was de-mobbed. Between 1941 and 1953 Maurice spent seven years with the Colours and five in the Reserve.

Speaking to the Melton Times this week Maurice, who is a life member of the RBL, described his medal presentation on Saturday as being ‘out of this world’.

He said “I was very surprised how many people were at the Legion on Saturday because I was only expecting a few. My head was all over the shop to tell you the truth.

“I’m very proud to have received the Legion d’honneur. It’s a wonderful medal, as are the rest of my war medals, and dozens of people just wanted to touch it.”

Maurice’s wife, Joan, said: “I was very pleased he got his medal. I said if he’s got a medal then I should get one for the 72 years I’ve been with him!”