A RELUCTANT hero has finally accepted his World War Two medals 75 years on from taking part in the D-Day landings.

Carlisle veteran Derek Whitfield, 95, did not feel the need to apply for his honours after the war had ended and just left it at that.

If not for his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren, it would have stayed that way.

The inquisitive young minds knew some of his history, but being able to see his medals became a mission for the family.

His great-granddaughter Niomi Corrie, seven, said: “I feel proud that he was involved, I’m really proud of him and the medals are really pretty.”

The former Border Regiment soldier said: “The grandchildren made me come for the medals, they wanted them, I would have never applied for them. They knew where I was at, they [the medals] should have come with the rations, it didn’t bother me.

“But, the grandchildren wanted to see them, so that is why I applied.”

The proud family man was presented with the medals at a special ceremony held at Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life at Carlisle Castle.

Mr Whitfield received:

n The 1939-1945 Star, awarded to those who saw active service overseas during the Second World War;

n The France and Germany Star, awarded to British Commonwealth forces who served in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands or Germany between 6 June 1944 and 8 May 1945;

n The Defence Medal, awarded for service in World War Two;

n The War Medal 1939-1945 , given to anyone who served 28 days or more in the armed services.

Mr Whitfield recalled the horrors of the day he landed on Gold Beach in June 1944, he said: “I felt sick on the way over, then we had to jump into four feet of water I was worried we would drown.

“It was such a shock when we landed.

“It’s a different thing when bullets are flying at you and they’re meaning to hit you just don’t realise at the time.

“We were all the same age we were all mates, we couldn’t care less about the people shooting us we just wanted a rest.

“There was a smell there you will never forget.

“As a boy going to school I used to pass a slaughterhouse, Monday morning was slaughter day, that smell plus the smell of the shells and the guns firing, it was terrible, it was like death, it gets in your nose and you can never forget it.”

Mr Whitfield, originally from Manchester, said he and his friends joined the Border Regiment with the hope of wearing a kilt.

“I was at school when the war was on,” he said. “I was 18 and daft, pals of mine from school said ‘oh come on, we’ll join’, we were going to have to at some point.

“At the time you could choose your regiment and Border Regiment were recruiting in Manchester and we thought we would be able to wear kilts and that’s why we joined. We just fancied a change.

“We came into Carlisle and we trained in Bitts Camp and then we went off to Sandhurst.”