A 95-year-old grandfather of seven has been awarded the highest decoration in France for his contributions to D-Day.
Roy Smith, of Christchurch Road, Worthing, received the Légion d’honneur for leading missions in the dead of night to drop supplies to the free French in Eastern France in the lead up to D-Day.
He was incredibly lucky and incredibly brave. We are very proud of himDaughter Ness Bush
Roy said he was ‘most surprised’ to receive the award and felt ‘pretty lucky’.
His team of seven flew 42 missions together, when the average was only 11 before, usually, loss of life.
Daughter Ness Bush said: “He was incredibly lucky and incredibly brave.
“We are very proud of him.”
Born in 1922 in Hornsey, London, Roy was 21 when he signed up to serve in the Armed Forces.
He hoped to be in the Navy but was recruited to the RAF and sent to train as a pilot in America until – after missing curfew and being caught sneaking back under a fence – he was sent to be train as a navigator in Canada instead.
After undertaking bombing missions in Hamburg among other places, Roy was tasked with guiding his Stirling bomber plane to drop supplies to the resistance – using only the stars in the sky to navigate.
He enjoyed the role of a navigator because it kept him busy.
“I didn’t have a spare minute,” Roy said.
Years later, in 1996, he visited the Glières Plateau in France and, with the help of the town’s mayor, managed to track down and meet one of the resistance members who had been on the receiving end of the supplies.
After the war and a six month stint as a navigational trainer in India – in which Roy had a luxurious time but also caught malaria – he returned to England and married his wife Dorrie in 1949.
He became the director of Pearce and Partners, heating and ventilating engineers, and split his time between Harrow in London and Worthing with his family of four children.
Roy said he had a ‘superb family and superb home life’.
He will be invited to a special ceremony to officially receive his award this year.