Leeds veteran awarded one of highest military honours 73 years after D-Day heroism

Leslie Postill at home with his medal.
Leslie Postill at home with his medal.

A Leeds veteran has been honoured with one of France’s highest military decorations for his part in one of the Second World War’s most famous campaigns.

Leslie Harry Postill, an anti aircraft gunner for the Royal Navy, made several journeys between England and Normandy amid the “deafening” noise of D-Day.

Mr Postill during his time in the Royal Navy.

Mr Postill during his time in the Royal Navy.

The Leeds great grandfather, 94, has now been appointed to the rank of Chevalier in the Order of Légion d’Honneur.

And his medal – the tenth he has been awarded – came in the post this week.

Mr Postill was among the first to arrive at Normandy on Tuesday, June 6, 1944, and he remembers that at first it was surprisingly quiet.

He and his comrades had been asked to stand by and await further instructions, later taking wounded from the beach.

The beach at Anzio, Italy, in World War II. Leslie Postill, from Whinmoor, Leeds, landed there.

The beach at Anzio, Italy, in World War II. Leslie Postill, from Whinmoor, Leeds, landed there.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post from his home in Hebden Chase, Whinmoor, he said: “As we were pulling away the first time, the firing started.

“We could hear it getting heavier and heavier and heavier. They didn’t expect it, although there was so many ships.

“It was pretty deafening the second time we went. It was really bad. They woke up then, and they were trying their best.

“Then we saw the air force go over and start bombing.”

He added: “When I was first going in, I thought, ‘What have we gotten into?’.

“We were all frightened. We were bound to be.”

He added: “They were good lads. They didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Mr Postill served from 1941 to 1946, and during that time took part in campaigns in Sicily, at Anzio, and also made his first trip to the USA.

He said: “I had good days and bad days.

“I’ve seen things I would never have seen in all my life and met some marvellous people.

“When you get a mate in the forces, you’ve got a mate.”

In 2014, the veteran received an Ushakov medal for taking part in the 1942 Arctic convoys, described by Winston Churchill as “the worst journey in the world”.

He also received a “nice letter” from the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, with the honour.

But Mr Postill said he has seen some “terrible sights”, and still has flashbacks, one being of an effort to rescue a man from the water after a tanker had sunk.

He said: “As I got his hand to pull him out, his skin just came off like a glove and he floated away. I’ve got that in my mind. I close my eyes and can see it.”

Once he finished serving, Mr Postill at first found it hard to settle, but eventually found work at Lewis’s department store on The Headrow.

He later went on to the old Monk Bridge iron and steelworks on Whitehall Road.

It was there that he met his wife Joyce, whom he married in 1976, eventually ending up with six great grandchildren.

Although Mr Postill is “over the moon” about his new medal, and proud of his service, he said: “When I think about it now I think it was all a big waste of time because we were fighting to keep our country safe and free from everybody, and the governments just give it away.”

He added that the UK is now “run by businessmen”.

Although Mr Postill could have had an official ceremony to receive his medal, he is now housebound.

D-Day was the beginning of a campaign codenamed Operation ‘Overlord’, a combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France.

It marked the start of liberating north-west Europe from German occupation.

According to the Royal British Legion, 156,115 Allied troops landed on Normandy on D-Day, with 61,715 from Britain.

But the cost of the campaign was enormous - there are 27 war cemeteries in the area containing the remains of more than 110,000 dead from both sides, including 17,769 British troops.