Romford D-Day veteran awarded Legion d’Honneur

18:00 08 August 2014

Ron Arnold has been awarded a French honour called the Legion D'Honneur which is rarely bestowed upon non-French nationals.

Ron Arnold has been awarded a French honour called the Legion D'Honneur which is rarely bestowed upon non-French nationals.


A D-Day hero has been awarded the highest honour that can be bestowed by the French government.

Ron Arnold, 89, of Beverley Close, Emerson Park, returned to France to receive the Legion d’Honneur for his involvement in the Battle for Caen during the D-Day invasion 70 years ago.

The prestigious award is bestowed on non-French people only in recognition of exceptional acts, as with Ron and his 1944 comrades in arms.

“The award is a very treasured high award in France and could be thought of as on a par with a British MBE,” explains Ron, who is a Romford Rotarian.

He collected his medal last month at “what could only be called a palace” in northern France alongside 46 other veterans from all over the world, including Canada and Australia.

He recalls: “A minister of the French government came along and gave us all a kiss, the French way, then pinned on the award.”

During the Second World War, 19-year-old Ron served as a dispatch rider on the south coast and in Normandy.

He rode a motorcycle across battlefields, avoiding land mines and capture, to keep units in touch with each other.

“You are the object of a sniper,” he remembered.

“Going around on a bike was not as easy as it may sound – it was dangerous.”

Ron travelled back and forth between units, carrying parcels and coded messages, moving as quietly as possible.

He didn’t carry a map as that could lead the enemy to British forces if he was taken prisoner.

His own unit was based just outside Caen in the small town of Mouen in the summer of 1944.

It was a reinforcement unit placed to support others in the battlefield with additional machine guns and mortars.

“The battlefield was large and there were very large weapons,” Ron recalled.

HMS Rodney was positioned in the Channel to support the troops. It rained shells onto the mainland while British flamethrowers, known as crocodiles, roared across the fields to move on the enemy troops.

German machine guns rattled at a rate of about three shots per second alongside the Nebelwerfer rocket launchers.

“When the shots went overhead it sounded not so much like a whistle but a cloud of sound,” Ron explained.

One evening there was a different sound above Ron’s head. It was the heavy drone of massed aircraft.

“We looked up to the sky and there were 400 Lancaster bombers, seven in a crew, and they bombed Caen,” he said.

“The city was destroyed – it has been rebuilt since – but it wasn’t very nice
to see what we were doing to France.”

Ron returned to England with a severe infection in his arm which meant he couldn’t move it.

He says: “I was using my right hand to put my left one up on the handlebars 
so I could use my fingers 
to operate the clutch of 
the motorcycle.

“The poison got to the top of my arm and I thought it would go to my heart so I went over to the first aid post and they made arrangements for me to fly back to England.”

Ron is not sure exactly who put him forward for the award but he is honoured to have been one of the first D-Day veterans to have received it.

“There are other people who did what I did and more,” he said.

“But for some reason I seem to have friends who proposed me for the award, which would be impossible for me to refuse.”


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Romford Recorder visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Romford Recorder staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Romford Recorder account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Romford News Stories

Yesterday, 16:46

A 1940s tea party was organised to raise awareness about dementia.

Yesterday, 16:20

A former coroner for Havering has been suspended and an investigation into his conduct launched after families complained of waiting more than a year for death certificates.

Yesterday, 15:30
Residents have expressed their concerns for the pilot police scheme which would see the borough's force merge with Barking and Dagenham and Redbridge.

Residents have expressed their concerns at a new pilot scheme which would see Havering Police merging with other forces.

Yesterday, 14:38
There is queuing traffic on the A13 after a crash between two cars and a van.

There is queuing traffic on the A13 after a crash between two cars and a van.

Yesterday, 11:23
Lorraine Barwell was the custody guard who died at work after being attacked while taking someone into court

A woman who died from a brain haemorrhage after being kicked in the head while helping to transport a prisoner from court was posthumously honoured at an award ceremony.

Yesterday, 10:20
Children making masks for Halloween at the Fairkytes Arts Centre in Hornchurch.

Children got into the spooky spirit when they created their very own scary masks for Halloween.

Yesterday, 09:52
Clocks go back on Sunday morning (PA Photo/Handout)

Get your best pyjamas on – it’s time for an extra long lie-in this Sunday.

Yesterday, 09:11
Armed police were called to the scene on Monday night. Picture: PA

A man has died after being hit by a car on the A127 this morning.

Breaking News

Yesterday, 14:38
There is queuing traffic on the A13 after a crash between two cars and a van.

There is queuing traffic on the A13 after a crash between two cars and a van.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Most read news


Show Job Lists

News from your area


Click on the banner above for full coverage of the centenary commemorations of the outbreak of the First World War.


£3,000 goes a long way at Boots

Cosmetics, toiletries, vitamins and more. Boots is the number one choice when it comes to purchasing daily essentials.

Kit yourself out and go Apple mad!

If you’re obsessed with Apple or just love a good gadget, this is a prize that will blow you away! An incredible £3,333 to spend on Apple goodies! How would you like to be the proud new owner of the Apple Watch?

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now