Leeds veteran awarded France’s highest military honour for Second World War heroism

Veteran Roy Johnson, of Tong Road, Farnley, Leeds,  have been awarded France's highest military honour the National Order of the L�gion d'honneur medal in recognition of his efforts to free the country from German occupation.
Veteran Roy Johnson, of Tong Road, Farnley, Leeds, have been awarded France's highest military honour the National Order of the L�gion d'honneur medal in recognition of his efforts to free the country from German occupation.
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Only a teenager, Roy Johnson was studying at night school while working as a telegraph messenger for the Post Office in 1943.

But, as the Second World War raged on in its final years, Roy, like hundreds and thousands of his countrymen, was soon called upon to fight for Britain.

Veteran Roy Johnson, of Tong Road, Farnley, Leeds, has been awarded France's highest military honour the National Order of the L�gion d'honneur medal in recognition of his efforts to free the country from German occupation.' A photograph of Roy, aged 18, when he was in the Royal Navy.

Veteran Roy Johnson, of Tong Road, Farnley, Leeds, has been awarded France's highest military honour the National Order of the L�gion d'honneur medal in recognition of his efforts to free the country from German occupation.' A photograph of Roy, aged 18, when he was in the Royal Navy.

Building upon the skills he learned doing the rounds for the Post Office in Leeds, he was trained as a telegraphist for the Royal Navy before being sent to Portsmouth.

It was while he was stationed there that Roy was first introduced to what would be his defining role in the final stages of the war – Party Funshore. He, alongside only a handful of other British soldiers, was told to put on a khaki-coloured uniform by an officer, who even himself admitted to the men that he did not yet know the purpose of the unusually-named party.

“Time went on,” Roy, now 92, says.

“And we were told that the ‘go-word’ was Odyssey.

Veteran Roy Johnson, of Tong Road, Farnley, Leeds,  have been awarded France's highest military honour the National Order of the L�gion d'honneur medal in recognition of his efforts to free the country from German occupation.

Veteran Roy Johnson, of Tong Road, Farnley, Leeds, have been awarded France's highest military honour the National Order of the L�gion d'honneur medal in recognition of his efforts to free the country from German occupation.

“I later found out what that word meant – a journey with no ending.”

Part of a largely US operation, within a matter of months Party Funshore would land on the beaches of Normandy just three days after D-Day in June, 1944, when the Allies launched their assault to liberate France. Working close to the battlefront, the men – including Roy – would play their own vital non-combat role by taking over a German radar station, monitoring movement on the surrounding seas.

The veteran, from Farnley, has now been awarded The Order of Légion d’Honneur, the highest French order of military merit, for the contribution Party Funshore made during the war.

“It was scary,” he admits.

“For everybody that says they were not afraid, they must have been.”

Roy returned to England in November 1944 and went back into general service in Portsmouth. The following year, he was sent to join up with British forces on HMS Mayina, where he would be stationed in what is now known as Sri Lanka.

But during the voyage he and his comrades were given a shock announcement, as news travelled across the ship that the Germans had surrendered.

“We were somewhere in the Mediterranean, I think,” he recalls.

“I suppose we were shocked.

“They gave everyone on the ship a can of pale ale.

“One of my friends joked, ‘I tell you what, they must have heard that Party Funshore is coming!’”

He remained in Sri Lanka for a further 12 months until April, 1946 when ships became available to ferry troops home to be demobilised.

But Roy’s fight did not stop there. On the journey home, ship doctors discovered he had contracted malaria and he was taken ill in August, 1946.

While recovering at the Royal Hospital Haslar, in Portsmouth, his parents paid him a surprise visit.

“They told me ‘your parents are here to see you’,” he says.

“But I said they must be wrong because my parents lived in Leeds, how would they know?”

They had been sent a special telegram known as a Government Absolute Priority – or GAP – expressly telling them of their son’s condition.

“I used to send those as a boy messenger,” Roy laughs.

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