Basil is finally recognised — it only took 68 years
AN 89-YEAR-OLD former British naval officer is to receive France’s highest military honour — 68 years after his part in the Normandy D-day landings.
Basil Woolf jokingly described the award as “better late than never” but added he was “thrilled and very surprised” to be given the Légion d’honneur.
Born in Hackney, Mr Woolf volunteered for the Royal Navy in 1940, and was posted to America and Europe, where, as a naval commando, he “took supplies to Malta, smuggled Greek women guerrillas into Crete, and took part in the Sicily and Italy landings.”
Petty Officer Woolf then became part of the Support Squadron Eastern Flank, to protect infantry in the British section of the Normandy invasion during 1944.
He described an attack on Walcheren Island, off the Normandy coast, which officers believed was being used by the Nazis to launch rocket attacks on Lon- don. His ship was the only craft to survive the offensive. “I saw landing craft burning and sinking all around. The sea was on fire. Men were in the water, some motionless, some attempting to swim. Our ship was picking men out of the water, the well deck was full of injured sailors.”
Hi s b r a v e r y was mentioned in dispatches — reported in the JC in 1944.
Mr Woolf, a retired antique dealer, and his wife Anne, moved to New Jersey in 1952 and now live in Dunedin, Florida. “The job situation was not good in Europe and our family encouraged us to move here. We’re now US citizens but we still feel British.” He responded to a local newspaper advert in 2000 asking for details of exsoldiers who served in Normandy. “I received a certificate from the French consulate but I was so surprised to get the award, 12 years after I sent them the details.” Mr Woolf was the only Briton to receive the award in Florida. It will be presented in May.
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