TWO ex-soldiers from the Skegby Royal British Legion who fought in the battle of Monte Cassino during the Second World War have been awarded medals of honour by the Royal House of Poland.
The medals were awarded as a thank you to all those who took part in the 1944 battle for the Hill Monastery near Rome, which paved the way for Allied victory in the Italian capital.
Sgt James Hughes (92), of Sutton, received his medal with a guard of honour during a ceremony at Skegby Royal British Legion on Saturday.
Sadly, Stanley Jackson (93), of Brinsley, passed away three weeks ago so his daughter, Lynne Stumbles, received the medal on his behalf.
The medals were awarded by Colonel The Lord John Goodenough, on behalf of the Royal House of Poland - as a mark of respect to the soldiers who helped win the war for the Allies.
He said: “Medals were promised by the British Government and the Allies but they never materialised and the war moved on.
“It was decided two years ago to award the medals and the search has been going on ever since.
“Her Royal Highness Princess Diana Lenska has paid for the medals herself and we have awarded them in Hong Kong, Poland, and America. Anybody who fought in the battle should contact me and they will be awarded a medal of honour.”
Sgt Hughes was first sent to North Africa when war broke out in 1939, then Sicily and mainland Italy.
“I am really honoured to think that the service I have done is being appreciated. It (the battle) is how I would imagine hell would be,” he said.
“I had to escort mules up the hill. I always used to hope the Germans would not shell us. You always had that feeling in your stomach, but once you got into the job you were all right.
“I think about those lads in Afghanistan and I think they are wasting their time.”
There was another surprise on the day for Sgt Hughes when he was dubbed Knight of Honour of the Kingdom of Poland for his 40 years of service as a superintendent at St John Ambulance.
Lynne Stumbles, Cpl Jackson’s daughter, said she was sorry her father had missed the occasion.
“Dad never talked about the war,” she said. “So many men lived through all that, came home and had a completely new life like it never happened.
“He ended up going down the pit until the 60s. He should have lived to be 100. He was fit, upright and did everything for himself.”
Coun John Wilmott, deputy leader of Ashfield District Council, said: “This is such a great honour – not only for the soldiers, but for the people of Ashfield. I wonder how many people have been knighted here.
“These sort of events bring the community together.”