Top French honour for Harborough man Douglas

Senior Aircraftsman Douglas Owen
Senior Aircraftsman Douglas Owen

A Harborough man who took part in the Normandy invasions before serving in the Netherlands during the Second World War is to receive one of France’s top military honours.

Senior Aircraftsman Douglas Owen joined the RAF in 1942 after serving in the Air Training Corps in his native Leicester.

Senior Aircraftsman Douglas Owen

Senior Aircraftsman Douglas Owen

He was posted to a radar station on the Yorkshire coast before joining the D-Day invasions on June 6, 1944 – landing at Port-En-Bessin on the French coast.

Mr Owen said German forces had fled the area in such a hurry after the landings that his unit found half eaten food and drink left behind by Wehrmacht troops.

He later served in Belgium and his unit liberated a small town near Brussels where they were greeted fondly by locals.

Mr Owen said his work in Belgium involved using radar equipment to attempt to locate Allied aircrews who had been forced to ditch their planes in the English Channel.

They were later sent to Walcheren Island in the Netherlands and used their radar equipment – called radiolocation at the time – to direct Mosquito light bombers in attempts to destroy midget submarines which were trying to get out into the North Sea.

Following the German surrender Mr Owen returned to the UK, but in 1946 he was posted to Kowloon in Hong Kong.

Although such a journey these days would take one plane ride, Mr Owen’s 1946 trek to Hong Kong involved a flight from Duxford in the UK to Tripoli in Libya, a flight to Basrah in Persia, then to Karachi, a train to Vishakhapatnam in India, a ship to Singapore and then onto Kowloon.

While in Hong Kong, he worked as a military air traffic controller.

He was demobbed in December 1946 but even this did not mark the end of his military service as he was briefly called up as a reservist in 1951 during the Korean War. However, his experience in the Korean War involved spending two weeks living under canvas on the Isle of Wight!

Mr Owen is to receive the French Legion d’Honneur from French Consul Jean-Claude Lafontaine at Harborough Conservative Club today (Thursday).