A Caithness man has received France’s top honour for the part he played in the D-Day landings during World War II.
Don Mason, 94, of Thurso, a pilot who undertook about 80 missions as part of bomber command, has been awarded the Legion d’honneur.
He received a letter on behalf of French President Francois Hollande, telling him about his award.
Mr Mason said: “I have mixed feelings. I went to Normandy twice on D-day having come back to a warm bed and a meal, but the people who really should be honoured are the people who fought their way ashore and continued to fight until the enemy were defeated. There are other brave, hardy men who should be given this honour.”
Mr Mason delivered one of the first units to land in France on D-day after releasing 21 paratroopers at 1.10am. He returned at 6.30pm when he delivered anti tank guns, an armoured jeep and ammunition.
Before and after D-day Mr Mason’s squadron was involved in dropping off supplies into occupied territory in France, Norway and Denmark. This required low flying and he was always at risk of being shot down. He said: “It was highly dangerous but it was war and that was what you had to do.”
The letter from the French government says: “I offer you my warmest congratulations on this high honour in recognition of your acknowledged military engagement and your steadfast involvement in the liberation of France during World War II.
“We must never forget heroes like you who came from Britain and the Commonwealth to begin the liberation of Europe by liberating France. We owe our freedom and our security to your dedication because you were ready to risk your life.”
In all, he flew about 80 missions as part of Bomber Command and the Airborne Support. He was posted to the Transport Squad in December 1944 and flew between the UK and the Far East until he was demobbed in 1946.
Mr Mason, from the Midlands, moved to Caithness in 1988.
Today Mr Mason keeps busy by visiting schools and giving talks and presentations about World War II. He has made charts and models to help illustrate these. He said: “It seems to be very popular and the children enjoy it. I enjoy working with the children and I think it is important to try and do your bit.”