Wait goes on for D-Day veteran Russell’s war medal

D-Day landings survivor Russell Dunkeld from Lancaster.
D-Day landings survivor Russell Dunkeld from Lancaster.

Russell Dunkeld was just 18 years old when he took part in the D-Day landings and, aboard HM Landing Ship (tank) 304, was one of the first to arrive on French soil at Sword Beach on June 6 1944.

Now 89, Russell is still awaiting his Legion d’Honneur award to recognise his bravery at such a young age.

The Legion d'Honneur medal.

The Legion d'Honneur medal.

Widowed father-of-two Russell, who lives in Hala, is now suffering from terminal cancer and his family is hoping his medal arrives before he loses his final battle.

A ceremony is being planned with the help of Peter Donnelly from the King’s Own museum in Lancaster to award Russell with a temporary Legion d’Honneur medal, in lieu of his own.

Russell’s son, also called Russell, said: “He is very frail.

“We have emailed the French authorities again this week to try to speed things up.

“My father doesn’t want any fuss but he is hanging on for his medal.

“He has been through some horrific treatment recently and it was only the thought of surviving for this medal that kept him going.”

As an Acting Able Seaman in the Royal Navy, Russell was a medic/stretcher bearer with the role of collecting the wounded from the beaches and conveying them back to the ship for medical treatment.

He then continued care for the patients as the ship returned to the UK to discharge patients and reload with reinforcements and supplies.

Russell’s bravery featured on the front of the Guardian in June 2014, to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Requests for the Legion d’Honneur award are being processed by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), who then forward the details to the French authorities to make the final decisions on the awards.

An MOD spokesman said they were “working hard” to process all of the 2,700 applications received.

They said: “We are aware the wait can be frustrating for veterans and their families and will endeavour to keep them updated.”