Man who cleared mines on Normandy beaches is honoured

Jim Brook, front, with Willie Shackell, right, and members of the Royal Engineers Association
Jim Brook, front, with Willie Shackell, right, and members of the Royal Engineers Association

A war veteran who put his own life at risk to clear mines on the beaches on D-Day has been presented with the Legion d’Honneur.

Jim Brook, 95, was a sapper in 263 Field Company and served with the Royal Engineers throughout the Second World War.

He was tasked with clearing landmines from the Normandy beaches on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Mike Hoskins, Jim’s son-in-law, said: “After swimming to the shore from his landing craft, Jim found that his mine detector did not work and, with his team, used a bayonet to dig for the mines in the sand before removing the fuses to make them safe.

“Later, Jim helped construct bridges to cross rivers in France, Belgium and Germany as the allied forces advanced.”

Mr Brook had joined the 7th Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment, based at Dyke Road Barracks in Brighton, when it formed in late 1939 and was sent to France in spring 1940.

Members of the battalion were travelling by train from Rouen to Amiens, France, on May 18, 1940, when it was bombed, causing at least 60 casualties. The survivors found themselves faced with heavy German opposition and sought refuge nearby.

Having survived the battle, Mr Brook walked to Cherbourg and was taken back to England as part of Operation Ariel. He and others from the battalion were taken into the 12th Corps and placed on home defences. They then took part in the D-Day landings.

Mr Brook lived in Brighton and then Shoreham but recently moved to the Drumconner Nursing Home, in Brighton Road, Lancing.

He was awarded the Chevalier (Knight) degree of the Legion D’Honneur by the president of France, in recognition of his bravery in helping to free the country from German occupation.

The medal was presented by Brigadier Willie Shackell, the senior member of the local branch of the Royal Engineers Association (REA), based at Lancing Royal British Legion Club.

Mr Hoskins added: “Mr Shackell expressed his admiration for all who fought in that great conflict.

“The ceremony was attended by proud family and friends, including members of the REA. Jim modestly accepted the award and thanked all who attended.”

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