“I’m very, very proud and humbled.”
The words of Second World War hero Tom Davidson, who is set to receive the highest honour that the French military can bestow upon any veteran next month.
The 92-year-old will be at Durham Cathedral to be awarded the Légion d’honneur for his sterling service in Bomber Command as he and his comrades helped to liberate the country following invasion by the Nazis.
Dodging death “countless times”, Tom, of Albany, Washington, was a warrant officer flight engineer who was part of 466 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, which carried out more than 30 operations over Germany.
Despite fearing for his life, Tom told the Echo that the closeness of he and his fellow squadron members helped to keep them going.
“When I put the key in the door to the aircraft I was frightened, but then the training took over,” said Tom, a dad-of-three, grandad-of-seven and soon to be great-grandad-of-10.
She could’ve been made a war widow as a teenager but thankfully she wasn’t and made it to 89.Tom Davidson
“You tried not to think about the fear and just concentrate on what you were doing.
“As a crew we depended on each other so much.
“We had a fantastic pilot with great skill and strength, and he got us out of a lot of situations.”
Those predicaments included being caught in the vision of 20 or 30 enemy spotlights, having to abort a take-off just seconds before he and his crew could’ve been blown up and evading the bullets and bombs of the opposition.
Tom now says he has his suit ready and waiting for the ceremony at the end of Durham Cathedral’s Festival of Remembrance Concert, at which he will be formally presented with the medal by Andrew Robinson, the honorary French Consul for the North East and Cumbria,
If there is one tinge of sadness at being notified he is to receive the Légion d’honneur, it is that his wife Mary will not be there to see the occasion after she passed away early last year.
The pair met at a church dance and the relationship blossomed, with Tom kissing a photograph of her before each daring mission and promising her he would make it back alive.
“She died just three months short of our 70th wedding anniversary,” said Tom.
“She could’ve been made a war widow as a teenager but thankfully she wasn’t and made it to 89.
“We had a wonderful life and so many great years together.”
Tom’s thoughts also turn to his brother Frank, also a flight engineer, who was killed during service in November, 1943.
“I always think of those who didn’t make it home, so this is for them as much as it is for me.” Tickets for the Festival of Remembrance Concert, which takes place on Saturday, November 7, are priced between £10 and £18 and are available from the Gala Theatre Box Office or by calling 03000 266600.