A FORMER merchant seaman who served in the war from the age of just 16 and was torpedoed in the Atlantic has been officially awarded the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honour, by the Mayor of Redcar and Cleveland.
John Ronald Murray, of Brotton, aged 93, was awarded the medal for his bravery on D-Day and subsequent period from June 1944 when Allied forces invaded northern France and began liberating the country from the Nazis.
Mr Murray, who is known as Ron by many of his friends, has lost much of sight in recent years and was persuaded to allow the Blind Veterans Association to apply on his behalf.
The former Merchant Navy Second Officer was previously awarded five medals for his service in the Second World War.
He spent much of World War II delivering high octane fuel to RAF planes, including at Malta which was very heavily bombed, and supplying the British Army in North Africa. He served around the worldand was torpedoed in the Atlantic 1941 while heading to the USA to collect war supplies. He also served on D Day, June 6, 1944, and in the days and weeks that followed helping supply the troops with tanks and ammunition.
Mr Murray joined the Merchant Navy in 1938 aged just 15 as an apprentice navigation officer.
Mr Murray, originally from the Northumberland, met his future wife, Mary, at dance at the Swan Hotel in Redcar on a weekend off, while visiting a friend not long before D Day. Six months later they were engaged and they married in April 1945.
The couple have been married for 71 years. Mr and Mrs Murray had three sons: Jeff, who lives in Brotton, Alan who lives in the USA and Brian who lives in Loftus. They have ten grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
After the war Mr Murray spent five years working as a signalman on the railways and then went on to work at British Steel, first as an electrician’s mate and eventually as an overseer.
Mayor of Redcar and Cleveland, Councillor Barry Hunt, knew Mr and Mrs Murray as a child living in Muriel Street in Redcar where the Murrays were neighbours.
He said: “It’s always an honour to meet anyone who has served in our military, especially those from our greatest generation who served in the Second World War.
“It’s also wonderful to be able to present Mr Murray with the Legion d’Honneur in the Mayor’s parlour to pass on just a little bit of the regard I know everyone has for what he and his comrades did in the war. Mr Murray’s parents and my parents were friends when I was a child and I’m really looking forward to catching up with him, Mrs Murray and the whole family.”
Mr Murray’s son, Jeff, explained his mother used to push the current Mayor around Redcar in a pram as a baby and the whole family were especially pleased Cllr Hunt would be presenting the honour. He said: “We’re all extremely proud of dad. It must have been terrifying what he went through and he was so young, but in those days people just go on with it. Everyone who ever meets my dad says what a lovely man he is. A real gentleman. He’s modest and had to be persuaded to get the medal but he deserves it.”