France honours the last of Chorley's Normandy heroes

Once a Royal Marine, always a Royal Marine. And once a liberator of France, always a liberator of France. Seventy-four years after he stormed the beaches of Normandy, WW2 veteran Royal Marine John Dowling received France’s highest honour, the Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur.

Now 97, the green beret was invited to the town hall in his native Chorley in Lancashire, where civic dignitaries, fellow veterans and serving Royal Marines were on hand to see the veteran recognised – the last of the men from his town to be decorated by the French.

The award was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte and is now presented by the French Government in recognition of the bravery of British service personnel who liberated France in 1944.

John joined the Royal Marines in 1939 aged 19 and saw active service in Africa, Italy, France and Germany. He continued to fight on the front line for the remainder of the war following the Normandy landings and served for 13 years in total.

It was incredibly humbling to read through John’s service record – it’s one heck of a record and I am extremely proud to represent the Royal Marines at his presentation which is richly deserved

Lt Col Matt Churchward, Commanding Officer of Royal Marines Reserve Merseyside

“It was incredibly humbling to read through John’s service record – it’s one heck of a record and I am extremely proud to represent the Royal Marines at his presentation which is richly deserved,” said Lt Col Matt Churchward, Commanding Officer of Royal Marines Reserve Merseyside.

“His family and friends must be so proud of him as are we.”

At the presentation, held at Chorley Town Hall, he was surrounded by his many friends and family, as well as members of the Royal Marines and Chorley & District Ex Services Associations, where he entertained those gathered with his banter, many stories from WW2 and even impromptu harmonica playing.

Addressing those attending the ceremony, Chorley’s MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle told John, “Your sacrifices and those of your comrades are the reason we have our freedom today. Not many people fought on every battle front in that World War are still here. We can’t say enough about what you have done. Thank you on behalf of the country and the Government.”