A WWII veteran is to be awarded prestigious honour at Eastbourne’s Redoubt Fortress to mark Armed Forces Day.
On Sunday June 28 the Redoubt Fortress will mark Armed Forces Day with a drumhead service at 11am at which Pat Thomas, a D-Day veteran, will be awarded the prestigious Legion d’Honneur.
Armed Forces Day will be marked nationally on the Saturday (June 27), but events are taking place across the country between Monday, June 22 and Sunday, June 28 , allowing Britain to show support for the Armed Forces present and past.
The annual drumhead service which honours Britain’s Armed Forces will be held in the grounds of the Fortress.
Gates will open at 10am for an 11am start to the service, followed by the special award ceremony. The museum will then have free entry for the public all day on June 28.
Veteran Pat Thomas of the Sussex Branch of the Submariners Association, now 90 years old, commanded a naval landing craft on D-Day at Sword Beach, Normandy, when they were heavily attacked, leaving Pat as the only survivor.
The special ceremony will see Mr Thomas being awarded the Ordre national de la Legion d’Honneur, a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte on 19 May 1802. The Order is the highest decoration in France and is divided into five degrees of increasing distinction. Captain Francois Jean, Consul Honoraire de France will be presenting the award to Mr Thomas.
Eastbourne Borough Council lead cabinet member for tourism, Cllr Margaret Bannister, said, “Armed Forces Day is a chance for us to join the nation in remembering and honouring the men and women who are serving our country today, but also a time for us to remember and pay gratitude to all those soldiers in past wars who have helped to protect and preserve Eastbourne.
“We are thrilled to have a heroic veteran collecting such a high honour at the Fortress grounds.”
Mr Thomas was 19 years old and a Royal Naval Telegraphist serving on LCH185 which was responsible for receiving and transmitting signals to and from shore in support of landing forces at Sword Beach, where the onshore fighting was ferocious and air attacks constant, when he narrowly escaped his death.
On June 25, 1944, Mr Thomas awoke to find water all around him and a wound to his head before the ship he was on went down, throwing him into the water.
He swam out of the way in time to escape the mass of flame caused by the explosion of the vessel, killing the 70-80 other crew on board.
The drumhead service and award ceremony is sure to make a captivating morning at the Redoubt Fortress, particularly the story of valiant Mr Thomas’s World War II experience.
Armed Forces Day is dedicated to the men and women of the services from currently serving troops to service families, veterans, cadets and those who have gone before are all remembered for the tremendous work that they have done for their country.
For further information about Armed Forces Day at the Redoubt Fortress visit www.eastbournemuseums.co.uk.
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