FACING calls to leave and with eardrums ruptured from an explosion, many serving soldiers in the Second World War would have jumped at the chance to go home.

But for Didcot veteran Bob Halliday, a sapper in the Royal Engineers, it was never an option.

Now 96, the great-grandfather has been honoured with the Legion D’Honneur medal, the highest decoration in France, for his part in the D-Day landings.

Mr Halliday, who grew up in Glasgow, said: “I didn’t think too much about it because so many of the D-Day boys are dead and gone.

“When it arrived I felt a bit sad, but I am quite proud. It’s something and nothing in the sense of my age – I’ve got half a dozen in my drawer.”

As a teenager Mr Halliday worked at Fairfields shipyard in Glasgow. He was called up in 1939 with the Royal Engineers Special Reserve, “marginally too young” at 19.

Following a year making maps for a field survey unit he was evacuated from the “horrendous” Dunkirk in 1940 and offered his old job back, but turned it down.

He said: “After Dunkirk the other lads went back to work. They said I could and I was probably more needed at home than in the Army.

“I asked the Fairfields managing director if there was any alternative. He said yes and I said ‘I’ll take the alternative’. My mother was upset.”

That year Mr Halliday went to the Middle East with a Royal Engineers Field Park company as a machinist, building bridges, mending roads and clearing mines.

A German bomb part- destroyed his eardrums but in an Alexandria naval hospital bed, Mr Halliday resolved not to be sent home. He said: “I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

“When we joined the Territorials there was a bit of a scare on and I was going to do my best. Eventually I started back in the desert with no eardrums.”

Finally, in June 1944, Mr Halliday arrived in Normandy in the D-Day landings. He ran a mobile workshop fixing bridges as the Allies moved through France and Holland.

He said: “The Germans kept blowing up bridges, so we kept them fixed. I really enjoyed my work.

“When I demobbed and got home, I went out for a drink with my father. At about six o’clock I went to Glasgow Central Station and it was crowded with people shouting ‘Jock, Jock’. The rest of my unit were going to Japan. I missed that, but I had done my time.”

He added: “I’m very proud of what I did because we were in great demand. When I was ill, no-one took my place.”

After the war Mr Halliday struggled to find work in Glasgow so moved to Oxfordshire and worked for 20 years as a senior technician at Oxford University.

In 1946 he married wartime sweetheart Kay. The pair met out dancing in Witham, Essex, while she was training as a nurse at Southend Hospital, and he was preparing for the Middle East.

They will celebrate their 70th anniversary this year.