French honour given to D-Day soldier, 94

Lord-Lieutenant of Northants David Laing, presents the Legion d'Honneur to Aynho D-Day soldier Peter Smith, 94. NNL-160902-121235001
Lord-Lieutenant of Northants David Laing, presents the Legion d'Honneur to Aynho D-Day soldier Peter Smith, 94. NNL-160902-121235001

A Second World War veteran from Aynho has been presented with the Légion d’Honneur.

Peter Smith, 94, received his medal, France’s premier honour, from the Lord-Lieutenant of Northants David Laing, at a private ceremony at his home in front of family, friends and representatives from the Northants Yeomanry Association.

Mr Smith was a member of the Yeomanry and participated in the D-Day Landings.

The Légion d’Honneur was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte and in 2014 the French government decreed that all allied troops who took part in the landings were eligible to apply for the honour.

Mr Smith is a retired businessman and is the owner of a Ferret armoured car, which is stored and displayed in Ambrosden, near Bicester.

During the war, he was a tank engineer. In August 1944, he was part of Operation Totalise, an attempt to breakout from the Normandy bridgehead, heading south of Caen, and cutting off the German retreat through the Falaise Gap.

He also saw action in the Battle of the Bulge, made famous for the freezing conditions and last ditch attempt by the Germans to counter attack the advancing allies.

Mr Smith used a Sherman tank which had the main gun removed so it could carry tools and equipment. His role was to repair any of the troops’ tanks that broke down and he was required to advance alongside them in the front-line. Although the others’ tanks could return fire if they were attacked, Mr Smith’s tank could not.

On another occasion, his M4 half-track suffered a direct hit from a tank round. The vehicle was severely damaged, his kit and tools destroyed but he survived by diving headfirst into a ditch.

Brackley gave the Northants Yeomanry the Freedom of the Borough in 1960 during its Septcentenary Celebrations, and it is the only town in Northants – apart from Northampton – to have done so.