Trooper Rowland F Edwards

A ceremony to award the Legion d’Honneur medal, the highest award in France, to Trooper Rowland F Edwards was held yesterday at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Jean-Claude Lafontaine, an Honorary Consul of France was in attendance to present the medal to the 93-year-old veteran on behalf of the French government, in recognition of his contribution to the liberation of France during World War 2, where he served with the 29th Armoured Brigade HQ 11th Armoured Division.

Trooper Edwards landed at Juno Beach in Normandy in a Sherman tank, shortly after D-Day in June 1944. He was responsible for ensuring the safe progress of the tank across the beach towards Cully, in pursuit of their main objective, capturing Hill 112. The events unfolding around them led to his tank driver becoming unable to operate the vehicle, due to the immense mental stress, meaning Trooper Edwards was suddenly and unexpectedly elevated to the role of lead driver.

Several of the more than 330 memorials at the Arboretum commemorating service, sacrifice, and suffering, are connected to those who served in World War 2. This includes the Normandy Veterans memorial featuring five stones, one for each of the landing sectors; Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.

The ceremony was attended by members of Trooper Edwards’ family and representatives from Blind Veterans UK in Stafford who provide regular support to him to assist with his ARMD (age related macular degeneration) and glaucoma.

Trooper Rowland F Edwards said “I would like to thank the French government for this medal. Life in the army was not easy and I witnessed many terrible things, but I wouldn’t change a minute of it. My time serving was an important part of my life, and while I sometimes found the experience terrifying, I had the opportunity to meet so many people and learn many things.“

Sarah Oakden, Head of Marketing, National Memorial Arboretum said “We congratulate Trooper Edwards on becoming the recipient of this prestigious award, in recognition of his heroic service during World War 2. The National Memorial Arboretum is proud to regularly host medal ceremonies, where recipients can receive their award near memorials connected to their service branch or individual unit.”