A 97-year-old veteran of the D-Day landings has been awarded the highest honour the French government can bestow on a soldier.

The title of Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur was awarded to John (Jack) Mahony at a ceremony in Midleton today.

Mr Mahony, who is originally from Laharan near Killarney, but now lives in Midleton in County Cork, was among the soldiers who landed on Gold Beach in Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944.

With his unit, he took part in the liberation of Caen and it was as his unit was advancing towards Belgium and the Netherlands to support the soldiers liberating Arnhem, that he was captured at Venlo.

He spent the next two years in a succession of prisoner-of-war camps, the last being Stalag 111-A near Luckenwalde, 30 miles south of Berlin.

Liberated by the Soviet Army, Mr Mahony escaped to reach American forces at Halle, Germany and then joined British forces before demobilisation in 1945.

97-year-old Irishman awarded France’s highest honour for WWII service


The award is the highest the French government can bestow on a soldier and was presented by the Deputy Ambassador to Ireland Philippe Ray at a ceremony held in Mr Mahony's golf club in east Cork.

In his speech, Deputy Ambassador Ray said Mr Mahony's extraordinary story is a testimony to the courage of all men and women refuse to give up and who uphold the principles they live by.

He said Mr Mahony's story is a reminder that Europe's security and fundamental values should never be taken for granted as he recalled the terrorist attacks in Paris, and paid tribute to all the victims of recent attacks.

A minute's silence was then held for all those who died, and were injured in the Paris attacks.

Mr Mahony told the gathering that he was deeply honoured and moved to receive the award which he would treasure.

He retired as a London Metropolitan police officer in 1973 and has lived in east Cork since then.