French honour for D Day veteran Andy

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Well known local man Andy Nicholl has been honoured for his role in the liberation of France during the Second World War.

Andy, who was born and raised in Islandmore, just outside Portrush, has been awarded the Legion d’honneur, France’s highest honour.

The local man, who served with the Royal Ulster Rifles, is one of very few veterans in Northern Ireland to receive the award.

President of Portrush Royal British Legion, Andy, turns 90 later this month.

He says he will wear the medal proudly on Remembrance Sunday on parade in Portrush, in memory of the 6,000 Allied troops who were killed in the D Day landings.

That day Andy landed on occupied soil on a glider on what was to be the start of the the longest day.

Speaking to The Coleraine Times this week, modest Andy, who now lives in Coleraine said: “I got a letter about this award 18 months ago.

“My military records had to be checked by the French authorities.

“A letter from French Ambassador in London confirmed that I had been given the honour and I got the medal in the post.

“It is something that I never expected to get after all these years.”

In 2014, French President François Hollande announced the country would honour veterans who served in France during World War II.

“Thousands went to war and played their role in the liberation of France, but sadly they are not here to get this award,” said Andy, who joined the Royal Ulster Rifles at just 16.

Having left Carnalridge School at 14, Andy took up employment in Maxwell’s Quarry.

“Before I knew it I was in the Home Guard holding a rifle with one hundred rounds of ammunition at the age of 16,” said the veteran.

“Going to war was just something that you did in those days.

“There was nothing else for the young men to do.

“We grew up with it, my father and my uncle had fought for the Ulster Rifles in the first world war, sadly my uncle didn’t come home.

“I landed in a glider plane in France on we call the Longest Day, June 6, 1944.

“I then took part in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and was wounded at the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945, that’s a day I will never forget, that was my worst memory of the war,” admitted the former rifle man.

Andy went on to serve in Belgium, in Palestine and in Egypt, but he was keen to play down his role as a soldier.

“I am no hero, you had a deed to do and you did it.

“You went out to fight for your King and your country, there was nothing heroic about it,” he said.