South East Wales

WWII veteran honoured by France 66 years after rescue

A World War II veteran has received France's highest decoration for bravery.

Noel Reggie Ball, 87, from Ynysybwl, Rhondda Cynon Taf, has been awarded the Legion d'honneur medal for helping to liberate Le Muy in Nice in 1944.

The town has never forgotten the members of the Pathfinder's Parachute Regiment who freed them from the Germans.

Mr Ball travelled to the French town to receive the accolade.

He was 21 when his regiment were drafted in to help the Americans rid areas of southern France from the Germans in August 1944.

He said: "The Americans couldn't land so the the job fell to the British element - the Parachute Regiment.

"The 6th battalion was all Welsh and we were sent to this small village because it had a garrison of Germans, twice the number of us.

"We parachuted in in the middle of the night in the dark and by the end of the afternoon we destroyed that garrison and captured those that were left alive - all 700 of them."

Image caption Noel and his brother Howerd during their time in the Parachute Regiment

Mr Ball has been back to visit Le Muy several times since its liberation. He said its people still celebrate the event with huge passion and gratitude.

Mr Ball already has medals for campaigns in Africa, Italy, France, Greece and Germany, as well as the 1939-45 Star, the Defence medal, the Brittany medal and the General Service Medal.

But of all of them, this latest medal means the most, he said.

"The British army wouldn't like me to say that it's the most important but this medal is for valour.

"Every soldier in the 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade was a hero, not just me."

Then he joked: "I am extremely proud but at the same time, it's about time!"

Mr Ball's daughter Lynda McDougall was at his side when he collected the Legion d'honneur.

She said: "I'm immensely proud. He was just 21, very brave and very gallant."

The medal is France's top accolade for an elite group of people who distinguish themselves through civilian or military valour.

The award was initiated by the then First Consul of the French Republic, Napoleon Bonaparte, in 1802.

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