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Irish D-Day hero awarded France's highest honour

Honour: Henry John Alfred Place
Honour: Henry John Alfred Place

A D-Day hero has paid tribute to the Paris terror victims as he was awarded France's highest honour for helping liberate the country during the Second World War.

Henry John Alfred Place, from Limerick in Ireland, was seriously injured and had his leg amputated after coming under enemy fire at Caen on August 14, 1944.

His troop commander Lieutenant Edwin Crewe was killed in the attack.

Seventy years on, the 91-year-old veteran has been awarded the Legion d'Honneur - France's top military medal - for his part in the action.

At a ceremony in the residence of the French Ambassador to Dublin Jean-Pierre Thebault, Mr Place used the occasion to pay an emotional homage to his former commander and the victims of the recent Paris atrocity.

"I want to acknowledge all the soldiers who fought for the freedom of France and Europe in World War II, in particular, my armoured car commander, Lieutenant Edwin Crewe, who unfortunately didn't make it home," he said.

"I offer my condolences to the people of France, especially those who lost relatives and friends, following the recent terror attacks in Paris."

Mr Place was studying engineering at Trinity College Dublin when war broke out.

At the age of 18, in May 1942, he enlisted in the Royal Armoured Corps and was part of the landings in Normandy in July 1944 with the 53rd Reconnaissance Regiment.

On advance patrol in the south of Caen, one of Normandy's largest cities and a key military target during the Allied advance, his armoured car was hit by German fire.

During the ensuing gunfight he was badly injured, leaving him in hospital for some time before being discharged from the army in December 1945.

After the war, Mr Place worked for a while in London before moving back to Limerick, where he worked in Cement Roadstone until his retirement in the early 80s.

He has travelled several times to Normandy to attend the commemoration ceremonies and pay tribute to his fallen comrades.

The French ambassador M Thebault said: "By decorating Henry Place, France wants to thank all the Irish who took part in the liberation of France in 1944."