A blind veteran from Formby has been finally honoured for his part in helping rid France of Nazi occupation.
92-year-old Roy Stinton was this week formally presented with the Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur for his part in the liberation of Europe during World War II.
The ceremony was organised by Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for blind and vision-impaired ex-Service men and women, from whom Roy receives support.
A proud Roy was presented with the prestigious honour in front of his friends and family in Llandudno.
Roy said: “I feel very privileged to have received this fantastic award. I would like to extend my thanks to the French government for recognising the part that I, and so many others – many of whom are sadly no longer with us – played in helping to liberate their great nation.
“I joined the Royal Navy in 1943. I told them that I’d like to be a gunner, like my brother, but they said I was too good for that!
“They told me they had some new anti-submarine detection technology being installed in HMS Stalker, the ship on which I eventually served.
“Even the Americans didn’t have it. In fact it was so sensitive we were told not to wear our badges while off-duty for fear of being interrogated.
“I took part in the landings in the South of France, as well as Rangoon.
“During D-Day we were in a rest camp in the Atlas Mountains. It was an extremely tough time for my family as my brother was on a ship that came in from Gibraltar.
“Unfortunately, they told me I wasn’t allowed to see him, or indeed anyone at all. It was very hard indeed.
“Later I was transferred to the Far East where I was on minesweeping duties.
“I was in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, just six months after the atomic bombs were dropped.”
Despite the many horrors and atrocities Roy witnessed, he still maintains several positive memories of his time in service.
“He explained: “I look back on the war with good and bad feelings.
“Being in Hiroshima on my 19th birthday, seeing the devastation that had taken place, it’s the kind of thing you’re desperate to forget immediately. It’s one of the most harrowing things you’ll ever see.
“That being said, we had some good times and I met some great mates. But even then, there are times when you don’t think you’re ever going to come home. It’s a surreal thought and impossible to describe.”
After marrying his childhood sweetheart, Joyce, in 1948, Roy set up his own fuchsia business in 1950. He recalls: “It started off slowly but progressed well. I had a good name for quality, not necessarily quantity. There were so many new gardening centres opening up all over the country, and they were looking for something different.”
Unfortunately for Roy, his eyesight has long been a troubling factor in his life, though he admits it wasn’t until six or seven years ago that it began to severely impact his day to day capabilities.
He says: “It all began in earnest around six or seven years ago. I already had age related macular degeneration, so it was gradual, but still very tough.
“I can’t read anything, but I can see people walking towards me, and from about two or three paces away I can recognise them.
“It was my hospital radiologist who initially suggested Blind Veterans UK to me, and thank goodness they did. We’ve been to the charity’s Llandudno centre and absolutely loved it.
“The staff were wonderful, they couldn’t do enough for you. I just couldn’t believe there were people like that in the world. I’m proud to be part of the charity.”
Roy said: “The helpfulness of the staff at the charity’s centres is superb. I hope that anyone who’s entitled to their fantastic support is able to make use of it and discover that they do not have to battle blindness alone.”
Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 and the charity’s initial purpose was to help and support soldiers blinded in the First World War. But the organisation has gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning WWII to recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan.
For more information about the work of Blind Veterans click here.