Northampton D-Day veteran surprised with long-awaited Legion of Honour at 'tour' of County Hall
Northampton-born veteran Albert Allen thought he was visiting County Hall yesterday for a tour - but he was in for a surprise.
Because what the former Navy commander who served on D-Day did not know was his family had been keeping a secret from him.
The 95-year-old suspected nothing when his friends and family sat with him in County Hall on the pretence of helping with a "Remembrance Day rehearsal".
But Mr Allen was instead surprised to see the Lord-Lieutenant of Northamptonshire David Laing stride in and ask the veteran to join him at the front and receive France's highest military medal - the Legion d'Honneur.
"This might seem like 'This is Your Life,'" said Mr Laing as he faced Albert in the front row. "I don't have a big red book. But what I do have is something that goes back to D-Day and the landings in Normandy.
"This is a medal that is incredibly rare, and rarer now because the men who have received them are now so few... but they are incredibly brave men and they are people who we owe a great debt."
Dozens of Albert's friends, family and councillors stood to applaud the veteran as the Lord-Lieutenant pinned the Legion on Mr Allen's blazer.
Albert Allen served on D-Day in 1944 as a commander in the Navy, where he signalled Canadian forces to help them land on Juno beach during the Normandy operations.
For his efforts to liberate France from the German forces, he has now been awarded the medal after 75 years and appointed Chevalier of the Order of the Legion of Honour.
Albert told the Chronicle and Echo: "I didn't suspect a thing.
"People don't realise that it wasn't just me. There were thousands of us. And I would have loved for them to be here with me."
Albert's daughter Diane Walton organised the surprise in just three days after the medal came in the post on Saturday.
She told the Chron: "Today has been fabulous. He's only recently started talking about what he did during the war.
"He still so outgoing and he's bright as a button. We're all very proud of him."