The Légion d’honneur has been awarded to a Grantham-born 95-year-old who fought both at Dunkirk and on D-Day.
Born in Welby Street, John Henry Bond, also known as Jack, was called up as part of the 4th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment T.A. when war was declared on September 1, 1939. He was aged just 19.
By January, Jack had been transferred to the Royal Signals in France. However, the necessity of evacuation was becoming evident.
Jack remembered: “At Dunkirk we were given the job of securing communications from France to Dover Castle. Then we were told that there would be no more boats coming in to take us back across the Channel.
“We went up to hide in the sand dunes, and we heard the Germans coming. I was with Ted Newmarsh from Gainsborough and Leslie Wright, who was from Bakewell, Derbyshire.
“We hid behind large timbers and had to watch while others were captured as prisoners of war.”
They continued to hide out for a couple of nights, until salvation came when they spotted a boat.
Jack said: “We feared it might be German, but it turned out to be a Naval Yacht called HMS Galzar, and we were able to get back home.”
His bravery recognised, Jack became the driver for three generals who succeeded as General Officer Commanding the 11th Armoured Division – General Hobart, General Burrows and General Roberts.
Yet Dunkirk was not to be the last warfare Jack saw on the French coast.
“I was part of the D-Day landings at Gold Beach,” he added. “I still remember the noise of the bombing and shelling.”
From there he was part of the Allied forces who continued on through France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and up to the Danish border, until at last victory was declared.
Jack’s remarkable role in the efforts to liberate France have now been honoured with the country’s highest decoration, the Légion d’honneur.
As a veteran who fought in France during the Second World War, and following a pledge by French president François Hollande, he was encouraged to apply for the award through the Ministry of Defence, and received the medal in the post.
After the war, Jack returned to Grantham and worked at the well-known engineering firm Aveling Barford. He then went on to be chief engineer and facilities manager for 23 years at Stoke Rochford Hall.
On Jack’s retirement, he and his wife, Diane, moved to New Waltham near Cleethorpes, where they still live today. Diane, his son Nick Bond and his daughter Kay Sumner, have all expressed their pride at Jack’s award.
In 2014, Jack and Diane attended the 70th anniversary of D-Day at Normandy, and he is still in touch with Leslie Wright, having never forgotten their perilous experience hiding out in the Dunkirk dunes.