‘Ganges Boy’ Laurence Peachey, 91, receives Légion d’Honneur ‘for the guys who lost their lives’
PUBLISHED: 14:18 30 June 2017 | UPDATED: 14:21 30 June 2017
A “Ganges Boy” and D-Day veteran who made a wartime Channel crossing with Winston Churchill has received France’s highest military honour.
Laurence Peachey, 91, who now lives in Felixstowe, was presented the Légion d’Honneur by the town’s mayor Nick Barber at a recent ceremony.
Mr Peachey said he was “very proud” of the award, which follows a D-Day anniversary commitment to honour veterans who fought for France’s freedom.
“I don’t pretend I’m any kind of hero,” Mr Peachey said. “And although I’m proud to own this medal, I wear it on behalf of all the guys who lost their lives.”
Mr Peachey, who comes from Thurston, signed up in 1943 when he was 18 years old. He trained at HMS Ganges, Shotley, and then Chatham in Kent. Aboard HMS Kelvin, Mr Peachey performed minesweeping duties in the English Channel, before serving in Alexandria, Egypt.
One of his greatest memories came towards the end of the war when his ship carried the Prime Minister Winston Churchill to France. “It was wonderful,” he said. “He sat on the upper deck and chatted with all the crew – he was very down to earth.”
Mr Peachey said the D-Day landings were kept secret until the last minute. “We left England and the captain said ‘this is the big one, there’s no turning back’.” He said it was “quite exciting” setting off but “a different story” on arrival. His mission was to shell the beach to destroy mines for the troops to land. “The noise from the guns and everything else was horrendous,” he added.
After D-Day, Mr Peachey continued with HMS Solebay in the Home Fleet, spending his 21st birthday in a defeated Germany.
Returning to Suffolk, he married Betty Woolnough with whom he had two sons – Paul and David.
He worked at a nursery in Thurston and his father-in-law’s farm, before making stramit boards in Stowmarket and later joining ICI in the town.
Mr Peachey moved to Felixstowe after Betty’s death.
He was first told of the Legion d’Honneur in 2014 – when, as part of 70th anniversary D-Day commemorations, the French President announced it would go to all British veterans who fought for the liberation of France.
“I thought I would never receive it,” he said. “The a few weeks ago I got an official letter to say I would. I feel very proud.”