War veteran Hugh Maguire has received France’s highest national order, the Legion d’Honneur, in recognition of service during 1944.
Originally from Loanhead, Mr Maguire, who served in the Royal Ulster Rifles, landed on Sword Beach on June 6, 1944 and would later perform a heroic act of courage as the regiment advanced towards the important strategic city of Caen.
The regiment met heavy resistance advancing towards Caen and Mr Maguire was injured by a shell burst which propelled him 12 feet in the air as they approached the designated sector of Hill 60.
Despite suffering several shrapnel wounds to his back, neck and shoulders, Mr Maguire refused to stand down and report to the aid station. He chose, instead, to focus his attention on silencing a deadly German machine gun position.
Mr Maguire, who worked at Bilston Glen Colliery, said: “A corporal tried to send me to first aid but I told him that I’d never refused an order in my life and asked permission to take down the machine gun position that had peppered us that morning. He looked at me and said that I wasn’t to blame him if I got shot, I said that was OK as I wouldn’t be there to worry about it.
“I crawled my way up to side of the machine gun post and shouted at them to surrender. I shot two of them as they turned their guns towards me, everything happened very quickly. The other two surrendered, one of them an SS Officer, who I marched back to headquarters.”
Mr Maguire returned to the UK to undergo extensive medical treatment on his wounds and re-joined the regiment in 1945 as it advanced through Germany.
Aged 95, Mr Maguire now lives in Armadale and became a member of the charity Scottish War Blinded as a result of developing a visual impairment in subsequent later life.
The presentation ceremony took place aboard the French Naval Destroyer Aquitaine. Mr Maguire, who was joined by members of his family, said: “The honour came out of the blue, I thought when I was demobbed in 1945 that would be the end of it but, 70 years on, here we are.”