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Fife D-Day veteran awarded the French Légion d’honneur

Irvine Rae receiving the Legion d'honneur, France's highest honour for his role in the D-Day landings, from French Consul General in Scotland Emmanuel Cocher at Leuchars in Fife.
Irvine Rae receiving the Legion d'honneur, France's highest honour for his role in the D-Day landings, from French Consul General in Scotland Emmanuel Cocher at Leuchars in Fife.

A 93-year-old Fife veteran has received France’s highest honour in a special ceremony at Leuchars Station.

Samuel Irvine Rae was presented with the Légion d’honneur by French consul general Emmanuel Cocher for his part in the 1944 D-Day Landings in Normandy.

Mr Rae was to be awarded with nine others at Edinburgh Castle in January but fell and broke his hip before the event.

Watched by wife Louise, 89, and other members of his family, he was at last given the distinction surrounded by serving and fellow past members of the Royal Engineers.

Mr Rae said it was a “tremendous” honour but added: “I was only doing my job.”

Daughter Ishbel McKay said: “We are all really very proud of him. He couldn’t really believe he was getting this and couldn’t understand why; he was just doing his duty for the country.

“The more we talked about it the more emotional he became about it.”

Irvine Rae in uniform.

Mr Rae, of Tayport, was an apprentice lithographer at an Aberdeen printer when he was called up, and 20 years old when he sailed as a sergeant with an advance party from Portsmouth on HMS Glenroy.

He and three other sappers advanced up the beach and moved inland to await the rest of their section.

Collecting information from Army Field Survey, RAF, resistance groups and local people, Sergeant Rae would redraw the front lines’ positions on the maps and print off copies.

Under regular attack from German planes, he travelled by truck, motorbike and on foot to deliver these maps to commanders at front line stations, where he would be updated on new field positions and movements for the next set of maps.

With 15 Map Reproduction Section, he advanced through Northern France, Belgium and into Germany, continuing to support the front line with updated maps.

He was later deployed to Italy, Palestine, Egypt and Greece, and in both Palestine and Greece he sustained minor injuries from roadside bombs and helped colleagues who were seriously injured.

Once demobbed, Mr Rae, who has three children, nine grandchildren and two soon to be three great-grandchildren, returned to work in the print trade.

After he and Louise married in 1952 they moved to Tayport and he set up Brand & Rae, in Springfield, with his brother-in-law.

Former French president François Hollande announced in 2014 that the country would award the Legion d’honneur to the living veterans involved in the campaign to liberate France in 1944.

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