James Cyril Sutton of Acer House Care Home Weston Super Mare, part of the Avery Healthcare Group, has proudly been presented with France’s highest military award, the Légion d’honneur. The award was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, as an acknowledgement of extraordinary bravery and service in times of war.
Former Royal Navy Able Seaman, James Cyril Sutton, was presented with the medal at the care home on the Milton Road, by the French Honorary Consul for Bristol and South West Josette Lebrat; with James were his daughter Janet Gifford, grand-daughter Heather Gifford-Jenkins, and Acer House Home Manager Alexandra Crew.
90-year-old James (known as Jim) is now one of just a handful of people in the region to be awarded with France’s highest honour of bravery. Late last year Mr Sutton was informed that he had been appointed to the rank of Chevalier in the Ordre National de la Légion d’honneur, in recognition of his bravery in the liberation of France during the Second World War, which included a key role in the D-Day landings.
In preparation for the landings, he was returned to HMS Victory in Portsmouth in May 1944 before taking up his duties as a landing craft coxswain on HMS LST-237. Mr Sutton undertook a key role in the D-Day landings, making six trips to deliver US Army personnel and their supplies to the beaches.
As Mr Sutton re-counted to his grand-daughter, “You didn’t really have time to think – you just did your job” and he added that there were 60 men on the landing craft each doing an important job. The ship was then loaded again with US army personnel and all of their supplies and rations. “The US had overfilled on supplies and they couldn’t take it all with them so they had to leave half of it behind on the ship. We thought all our Christmases had come at once and certainly had a feast of our lives on the way back to Portsmouth!” chuckled Mr Sutton.
Mr Sutton also went on to serve in Burma, Singapore and Bangkok, repatriating ex P.O.W.s of the Japanese.
Mr Sutton’s daughter Janet said, “I’m so proud of my father, and this event has been an extraordinary experience for the whole family. When I heard that he would be presented with the award personally by the French Consul, I was overwhelmed. I have heard many stories of veterans who are yet to receive theirs, or have been sent it in the post, so knowing he would get to receive the recognition he deserved in person was very important.”
Alexandra Crew, the manager at Acer House said, “We are extremely proud of James and to be part of this incredible event. James, who lives with dementia, clearly did so much for our country. Although memory loss is a key characteristic of dementia, Mr Sutton’s family has done a fantastic job to ensure his experiences and bravery is not forgotten. At Avery, it is a key part of our commitment to care that we get to know our residents, their stories, and their families, and treat them all with dignity and respect; we’ll be sure to share the memories of today with all of our other residents too.”