Great-grandfather Charles Blackburn — born in Small Heath in 1918 — had an extraordinary surprise when he was staying recently at the John Taylor Hospice for a short respite break.
He was awarded France’s highest military honour, the Légion d’Honneur, for his service with the Royal Navy during the Second World War and his part in the historic actions that helped liberate Europe from Nazism.
The award follows François Hollande’s announcement on the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 2014 that all surviving British veterans who fought for the liberation of France would receive the Légion d’Honneur. His family applied on Charles’s behalf — and kept this a closely guarded secret.
Charles served with the navy throughout the war. He was part of the convoys that helped liberate France; he was part of the Arctic convoys that saw such huge loss of life in ensuring that supplies reached our Soviet allies. He remembers kicking a football across the frozen seas of Murmansk during a short rest break.
Charles’s story is truly astonishing and his undimmed memories of those years make remarkable reading. His modesty and sense of duty come from another age. Join us in congratulating him and wishing him and all his family well.