WHAT AN HON­NEUR:

Bri­tish war vet­eran gets French ac­co­lade

Harefield Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - by Kather­ine Cle­men­tine kather­ine.cle­men­tine@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

A WORLD War Two vet­eran from Hilling­don has re­ceived France’s high­est ac­co­lade, the Le­gion D’hon­neur.

Philip Cole­han, 93, re­ceived the hon­our from Am­bas­sador Sylvie Ber­mann, at the French Em­bassy in Kens­ing­ton on Fe­bru­ary 19. Mr Cole­han served in the Se­cond World War as part of the RAF’s AT Wing Squadron – a mo­bile sig­nals unit.

Speak­ing af­ter the medal cer­e­mony, he said: “I felt very proud but very sad that it’s taken so long to be ac­knowl­edged in this way. Many of my friends and col­leagues have gone. There was pride but also sad­ness.”

The heroic vet­eran was over­joyed to share the honourable day with his wife, Linda, and two sons, John and Robert.

He said: “It was a day of enor­mous pride. I thought at my age, I’m 93 now, I never ex­pected any­thing like this. All th­ese things are for young men but it was mar­vel­lous.”

Mr Cole­han, who later went on to be­come chief of all 17 li­braries in Hilling­don, has many tales to tell about his time in the mo­bile sig­nals unit, which was de­ployed wher­ever needed and sent far and wide.

He said: “To­wards the end of the war, the Ger­mans had blown up all the bridges across the Rhine, ex­cept for one at Remagon. The Amer­i­cans heard about this so they sent a small force of in­fantry and moved for­ward to cap­ture it. They went for­ward, cap­tured the bridge and took hold of it against the Ger­mans.

“Of course, the Ger­mans fought back like mad to re-cap­ture it and they wanted more air cover so they sent for us at the mo­bile unit for ra­dio cover over the bridges.

“We took over a schloss, (cas­tle) on the Rhine and it was a mar­vel­lous place. We were there for two or three days and we watched the bat­tle be­ing fought out below us on the bridges and that went well.

“Af­ter about three days, the Amer­i­cans won and went for­ward and one of our guys man­aged to find the keys to the wine cel­lar at the cas­tle – can you guess what hap­pened?

“There were many light-hearted things as well as se­ri­ous. I like to think about the light­hearted, fun things that hap­pened as well as the oth­ers.”

Ahead of the day, Mr Cole­han re­ceived a let­ter on be­half of French pres­i­dent François Hol­lande, ex­press­ing warm­est con­grat­u­la­tions for his ap­point­ment to the rank of Cheva­lier.

It read: “As we con­tem­plate this Europe of peace, we must never for­get the he­roes like you who came from Bri­tain in the Com­mon­wealth to be­gin the lib­er­a­tion of Europe, by lib­er­at­ing France.”

His wife Linda watched as the medal was pinned on each vet­eran at em­bassy cer­e­mony.

She said: “It was lovely, an ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful day.”

n CHEVA­LIER: Philip Cole­han re­ceives France’s high­est hon­our. Below, Linda and Philip Cole­han at the em­bassy

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