102-Year-Old D-Day Veteran Awarded France's Highest Honour

Dennis Cooper was presented with the Legion d'Honneur at Blandford Camp in Dorset.

A 102-year-old D-Day veteran has been awarded France's highest honour. 

Dennis Cooper, from Portsmouth, was presented with the Legion d'Honneur at Blandford Camp in Dorset on Thursday.

Mr Cooper said the award, which marked his service and bravery during World War Two, made him realise "what we did was really worthwhile".

Serving in the Royal Navy, Mr Cooper helped escort two mulberry harbours across to Normandy where they were positioned on Sword and Omaha beaches.

But his D-Day mission began the day before the landings, on 5 June 1944, when he was involved in minesweeping from Sword beach to Cherbourg. 

"We did the impossible,"  he told Forces News.

"We sailed right under their noses' [the Nazis] and laid a minefield that was to prepare for D-Day, so that none of the E-boats could get out to destroy us and none of the convoys could get in to supply food and ammunition for the Germans.

"That was very effective because the Germans were so short of food, they just went along the beach and ate mussels and things like that.

"That was what I would call doing the impossible."

Royal Marine Commandos going ashore during D-Day
Royal Marines land on a Normandy beach on D-Day (Picture: PA).

Mr Cooper enlisted into the Royal Navy in 1940.

During the war, he spent three years on HMS King George V, before going on to serve on minesweepers. 

He told Forces News he "seemed to be the only one left" out of his friends after D-Day.

"We lost a lot of men, I mean, all my friends and acquaintances died," he said.

"I was rare and I seemed to be the only one left - so many were killed.

"The boat that I was on - just before D-Day when we went to lie the minefield - I was taken off and within five days it was sunk...and only two people survived. That sort of thing happened to me quite often."

Denis Cooper looking at his military service medals 200220 CREDIT BFBS
Mr Cooper looks at his military service medals.

More than 6,000 former military personnel have been presented with the Legion d'Honneur since the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June 2014. 

It came after then-French President Francois Hollande announced all British military veterans who helped liberate France from the Nazis would be recognised. 

Mr Cooper has since returned to Normandy and last year, he attended the commemorations for D-Day 75, where he said he felt "honoured and humbled" after receiving a "great reception". 

He retired from the Navy at the end of the war and began a career in the motor industry.

Mr Cooper retired to Marnhull in Dorset, where he has lived for the past 32 years with his wife, Mary.

He has been supported by the Dorset branch of SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity.

Looking back on D-Day, Mr Cooper said: "If we hadn't done it, we wouldn't be here."