A 94-year-old man from Yate has been awarded the highest military French order of merit for his part in the liberation of France in World War 2.
Leonard Trewin was just 14-years-old when the war started in 1938, but joined the Home Front on his 15th birthday shortly afterwards, 80 years on and he has been given the Légion d’honneur.
Born in Cornwall on August 19, 1924, Leonard had always been a good runner and athlete, so excelled in his training with the Warwickshires after he signed up with the forces in 1943.
“I remember we did our training at Hardwicke Hall in Derbyshire,” Leonard recalled.
“One memory of training was the 10 mile dash where 20 of us had to carry our kit cross-country.
“Only 6 of us finished and I ended up having to carry their guns to help them.”
After just two weeks of training, Leonard’s military career took an unlikely turn.
“A couple of gentlemen arrived and asked for volunteers to join the Parachute Regiment. I thought, I’ll give that a go.”
Leonard went on to jump 75 times throughout his time in the army, including in Israel, Sudan and even in Operation Varsity in 1945.
That particular drop during the Battle of the Rhine involved over 16,000 Paratroopers and is the largest ever airborne operation to be carried out in one day in a single location.
At the end of the war, Leonard was moving across Germany and liberated a labour camp in 1945.
This was where he met a German lady called Gerda Stanza.
Two years later he returned to Germany and he got back in contact with Gerda, shortly afterwards the pair were married.
Leonard then left the army in 1947, before rejoining again until 1953.
Now, 66 years on he is going back to Normandy to be presented with the Légion d’honneur in June.
“Excitement is bad for your health,” Leonard quipped when asked about the award.
“When you are part of the Parachute Regiment you learn to accept what happens to you, but yes, it is a very proud moment.”