War veteran given French hero's medal 72 years later
A veteran who cheated death serving in World War Two has been given a top military honour from the French government for his service.
Bernard Sharrock, who lives at Ancliffe Residential Care Home in Goose Green, received the Legion d’Honneur as he took part in the D-Day landings and the liberation of Europe in 1944.
His family told of his extraordinary brush with death on the front line, aged just 20, when the tank he was travelling in came under fire from the enemy. Bernard and one other crew member survived the attack, with three of the five people on board being killed, including the driver.
Incredibly, Bernard should have been driving the tank that day but at the last minute the crew had decided to switch positions and he was perched higher up in the radio operator’s seat instead when the Nazis opened fire.
The 92-year-old was given the top French military honour, the equivalent of our George Cross, in a ceremony at the care home led by the Mayor of Wigan Coun Ron Conway.
Friends, family, members of the armed forces and pupils from Worsley Mesnes Community School also attended to watch the proud moment as Bernard was honoured.
Bernard’s daughter Kathryn said: “Dad was in a Sherman tank which managed to avoid enemy fire and headed for the town of Caen in Normandy.
“The landscape was very difficult because there were high hedges obscuring the view of the enemy. Things went very wrong and a Panzer blew up the tank which caught fire. He was fairly high up so he could scramble out just in time but he lost at least three good pals.
“What made it even more amazing was the fact he should have been driving the tank but that day they swapped and he was the radio operator. If he had been driving he would have been killed.
“Despite his burns he managed to find his way across several fields until he reached a road where a field ambulance grabbed him and threw him in the back. These memories have stayed with him all his life and he has always remembered everything from the war.”
Ancliffe activity co-ordinator Lorraine Harris said it was a great honour for the staff to be part of such a special occasion and Bernard had also clearly enjoyed it. She said: “He’s had a really good afternoon. We are all made up for Bernard.”