MP helps restore France’s highest honour to family of WW2 veteran
Stockport MP Ann Coffey has successfully intervened with the Ministry of Defence to restore the Legion D’Honneur, France’s highest award, to the Scott family from Heaton Mersey.
Mr Francis Scott was awarded the Legion D’Honneur for his service in the Royal Navy clearing mines in World War II during the lead up to D-Day. This was vital work preparing for the Normandy landings on 6th June 1944, which was the start of the campaign to liberate Europe.
Although the French authorities despatched Mr Scott’s medal to him in May 2017, he sadly passed away at the age of 92 before receiving his award. As the medal did not turn up, his sons, Alan and Steven Scott, approached Ann as their MP to see if she could help them find out what had happened.
Ann Coffey made enquiries with Earl Howe, Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, who in turn raised it with the French Embassy. After establishing that the original medal had been lost in the post, the French authorities took the unusual decision to reissue the award, which has now been received by Alan and Steven Scott.
Ann Coffey met with Steven and Alan Scott to see the Legion D’Honneur and pay her grateful tribute to their father’s wartime contribution to our Armed Forces.
Ann Coffey said:
“The Legion D’Honneur is France’s highest honour, which cannot be awarded posthumously. It was the Scott family’s only chance to have their father’s service recognised in this way, and so I am very grateful for the assistance given by the MoD and the French authorities in recognising that the medal had been lost and agreeing to reissue it to the family. ”
PHOTOS: Ann Coffey with (l to r) Alan and Steven Scott, holding Francis Scott’s award of the Legion D’Honneur
In Stockport we are quite rightly proud of our heritage architecture. Perhaps most of all of our iconic viaduct, which towers over 30 metres above the Mersey and is a Grade II listed structure. The viaduct is also a crucial link in our railway network, used by all the train companies to connect Stockport passengers with the rest of the country.
Unfortunately, trespassing on the railway network is an increasing problem according to Network Rail, reaching a five-year high in 2018. Network Rail says that teenagers, particularly boys, are amongst those most likely to trespass, and they do not fully understand the dangers they are putting themselves in. There are spikes in trespass incidents at key times during the year – one of which is during the summer holidays.
Last month we had an incident in Stockport, when a vulnerable older man got onto the viaduct in the early morning and was only brought down safely almost 24 hours later following specialist help from the police and emergency services. I am very grateful to those involved in managing to avoid a tragedy.
As well as putting lives at risk, this dangerous incident also resulted in absolute chaos on the railway that day. With the line closed, no trains could stop at Stockport and passengers faced huge delays and cancellations. There was a knock-on effect on train services across the network.
Network Rail has taken measures such as end-of-platform fencing and heat cameras, to prevent trespassing at Stockport. I am making enquiries to see if more could be done to prevent people getting onto the viaduct itself in future, such as railings on the viaduct itself. This option would require special planning permission because of the listed status of the viaduct. And from my enquiries it seems that if an individual is determined to walk along the tracks, railings on the viaduct would not prevent them.
This makes it all the more important that the railway industry works with local communities on these vital safety issues. You Vs Train is a new campaign, launched jointly by the rail industry and British Transport Police, which includes a graphic video aimed at young people. I hope teachers, parents and the Council will support the campaign which spells out the dangers which people put themselves and others in if they step onto the railway track.
When I visit primary schools children often ask questions about recycling and show a great deal of concern about protecting the environment. World Oceans Day last month reminded me of just one of the issues which children have talked to me about.
Children at Vernon Park Primary school who had been learning about over-fishing of the oceans, and the appalling practice of shark finning wrote very passionate letters to me about protecting our marine habitat. They were very pleased to get a letter from the Minister at the Department of the Environment after I wrote to him about the children’s concerns.
The Women’s Institute, whose Heatons branch celebrates its 10th Birthday this summer, has also campaigned on environmental issues. The WI is now working to protect our oceans, with a campaign called End Plastic Soup. This is all about the tiny microplastic fibres which are shed from our clothing in the washing machine and flow into the sewage system and eventually into the ocean. They form a sort of plastic soup which is gradually clogging up the seas, and the WI want the government and industry to find a solution to the problem.
I think people were amazed and shocked by the extent of marine plastic pollution exposed by the Blue Planet TV series last year. People of all ages and interests are now campaigning on this issue, which is recognised as one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world.
The government has said that the UK should be in the forefront of world action to eliminate avoidable plastic waste to protect our rivers and seas – although I think their 25 Year Environment Plan could be more ambitious as far as the timescale goes. What we need is urgent global action to protect the world’s oceans from plastics, protect sharks and other marine creatures through strict international controls and encourage sustainable fishing. And of course this is a global problem, which needs global solutions.
Meanwhile, I hope people who care in Stockport, children and adults alike, will continue to campaign for action.