Francis Denvir, originally from Glasgow’s East End but living in West Cork, fought back tears during the double celebrations as he was bestowed with the medal of the Legion d’Honneur for his role in D-Day.
The centenarian was a sergeant in an Irish Guards armoured division which fought in the Market Garden campaign at the end of the Second World War following the second wave of D-Day landings.
Mr Denvir landed on Sword beach in Normandy before fighting through northern France, Belgium, and to the epic Battle of Arnhem in the Netherlands, depicted in the film A Bridge Too Far.
Receiving the medal from the French ambassador to Ireland Jean-Pierre Thebault, the old soldier was hit with mixed emotions.
“It is only fitting that we remember all the Irish Guards and all those who fought during World War Two and the many who did not return home.
“But I feel happy that my services in the army are being recognised. I’m quite happy.”
Dozens of family and friends joined Mr Denvir for the celebrations in Rosscarbery, Co Cork, a few kilometres from where he has made his home in Union Hall since 1989 with wife Mary.
The couple celebrated 74 years of marriage this year.
They recall how they had to break ration orders to get enough dried fruit during the war to bake a wedding cake in secret.
One of Mr Denvir’s sons, Brian, who also served with the British army, said the celebrations were only made possible thanks to the endeavours of the Irish Guards, the UK ministry of defence, the French government, and the embassy in Dublin since the application was made in June. “It took a bit of dog chasing. But to be fair, the Irish Guards took ownership of it and pushed it through but everybody played their part.”
Mr Denvir, whose grandfather emigrated from Lurgan, Co Armagh, to Glasgow in the 1800s, joined the Irish Guards in 1939.
His father’s advice was to join an Irish regiment as it would have a Catholic priest assigned in the event of death.