West Cork D-Day veteran to be honoured with France's highest honour
Published 19/10/2015 | 13:32
A D-Day veteran living in Ireland is to be bestowed with France's highest honour on his 100th birthday.
Francis Denvir, originally from Glasgow's East End, will enjoy double celebrations in west Cork when the French ambassador to Ireland pins the Legion d'Honneur medal on his chest this Thursday.
A former sergeant in a tank troop with the Irish Guards, he was among the second wave of landings at Sword beach in Normandy in June 1944.
Mr Denvir's daughter Adela Nugent said her father personally applied in June for his D-Day role to be marked.
"He was delighted, absolutely thrilled when he heard," his daughter said.
"He was the type of man, like a lot of veterans of the war, who would say 'look it happened, you got on with it, don't talk about it'.
"But it's a huge recognition at his age. He was never a man looking for accolades."
Mr Denvir, whose grandfather emigrated from Lurgan to Glasgow in the 1800s, joined the Irish Guards in 1939.
"He did not want to join a Scottish regiment. The Irish Guards was the only regiment that had a Catholic priest assigned to it and he is a devout Catholic," Ms Nugent said.
"He would be very proud of the fact that he was in the Irish Guards."
Mr Denvir, an avid fan of Celtic FC and German cars, spent the early war years training tank drivers before joining the Normandy landings.
He married Mary, originally from Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath, in Glasgow in 1942.
The couple fondly recall how they had to break ration orders to get enough dried fruit to bake a wedding cake in secret.
Sergeant Denvir led a tank troop from Sword, through northern France, into Belgium and to the epic Battle of Arnhem in the Netherlands, depicted in the film A Bridge Too Far.
He was severely injured by sharpnel to the head when his tank was blown up, and was airlifted in a coma to the Royal Hospital in Bath where he woke several days later, confused by the voices of injured Polish fighters in the same ward.
Despite the limited rehab available at the time, Mr Denvir learnt how to walk and talk again and went on to have eight children.
Ms Nugent added: "He's a lovely gentleman, but I would say that, wouldn't I? A positive thinker, he's the man who is definitely 'the glass is half full'."
Mr Denvir celebrated 74 years of marriage to Mary this year.
The couple moved to Union Hall in Cork in 1989 after visiting the picturesque area for family holidays for many years.
The award, bestowed by ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault, follows the Legion d'Honneur being bestowed on two other veterans in the last year.
"This presentation is an occasion for the French Republic to acknowledge the role played by Ireland and Irish soldiers for the liberation of France," the embassy in Dublin said.
The late Pat Gillen, from Cork, was honoured for his role with the Commando unit in the D-Day landings, also on Sword beach, as was Michael d'Alton, 94, a sub-lieutenant who steered a landing craft tank to Omaha beach.
The French embassy in Dublin said it is still seeking relatives of other surviving D-Day and Second World War veterans to come forward.