When Robert Ensor returned to his troop after fleeing German gunfire by swimming for his life, he was shocked to discover he’d been registered as dead.
Robert – known as Bob – had been presumed dead after his kitbag was washed up along with the unidentified bodies of some of his friends.
The 93-year-old has now been presented with France’s highest military honour – the Legion d’Honneur – for the part he played in the D-Day landings.
Bob, who has lived in Cross Street, Morecambe, since he married his late wife Mary in 1945, grew up in Lancaster with his grandparents, going to Skerton School before forging his dad’s signature so that he could join the army when he was just 16. He later signed up to train as a Commando.
“We didn’t know what we were letting ourselves in for,” he said. “But I passed and got the coveted green beret.”
Bob later took part in the famous D-Day invasion in Normandy on June 6 1944.
His troop sailed from Plymouth to join up with paratroopers in a dawn raid at Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer.
“We ran up the beach and men were dropping left and right,” he said. “The Brigadier was shouting at us to keep running and not look down because we were running over bodies. But we were getting fired at all the time so you just got used to it.”
Shortly after D-Day, Bob was part of a troop sailing along an estuary into Holland when they came under fire from German gunners.
“As we came in we heard a terrific bang and everything went dead,” he said. “We realised we had been hit but we couldn’t hear anything because the explosion had deafened us. We dumped all our kit and jumped into the sea and tried to get to the beach.
“When we got back I went to collect my kit and they didn’t have it. They looked on their list and said “I’m sorry, you are dead.” Then they found my bag and it had a deceased man’s label on it.
“I had to go before the Commanding officer because as far as they were concerned I didn’t exist any more.”
Bob was demobbed 12 months later and returned to Morecambe, where he and Mary went on to have their late son Brian and daughter Maureen.
“If I hadn’t already been married I would have stayed in because I loved it,” the great-grandfather said.
“I’m pleased to have got my medal but I feel very sorry for all those who were killed who didn’t get any recognition.”