A 94-YEAR-OLD former soldier received a hero's welcome when he returned to Normandy last week, 75 years after he took part in the D-Day landings.

David Edwards, from Abergavenny, was presented with the Chevalier Legion d'Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour) medal - France's highest order of merit - at the school which bears his name in the Normandy village of Mondrainville.

On June 6, Mr Edwards joined other members of the armed forces, past and present, to commemorate those who fought and died during the D-Day landings in 1944.

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"It was very emotional for me," Mr Edwards said of his visit. "I enjoyed it despite the memories it brought up."

Mr Edwards laid a wreath during a poignant service of remembrance at the Bayeux War Cemetery, which was also attended by Prince Charles.

Over the years, Mr Edwards has made many journeys back to Normandy to pay his respects to those who died in the Second World War, and to foster close relationships with the local communities.

While fighting in the village of Mondrainville, shortly after the D-Day landings, Mr Edwards chanced upon a family photograph lying on the ground. He pocketed it and carried it with him through the rest of the war, determined to return one day and find the house featured in the picture.

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Mr Edwards returned to the village in 1986 and met the house's current owners, sparking the beginning of a close bond between Mondrainville and his hometown.

Ever since, schoolchildren in Wales and Normandy have maintained close links, and a primary school in Mondrainville was named L'Ecole Edwards-Griffiths in honour of Mr Edwards and his friend, fellow veteran Tom Griffiths.

It was at this school (above), on June 5, that Mr Edwards was greeted by crowds of smiling pupils and well-wishers, ahead of the presentation of his medal.

Mr Edwards' son, Chris, said: "He was thrilled to bits, to have it presented at the school in front of the children.

"They played the British and the Welsh national anthems, and there were a few tears."

Emotions ran high, too, during the following day's events, when the cemetery service was followed by a visit to Arromanches, where Mr Edwards and his squad-mates of the 53rd Welsh Infantry Division landed in 1944 to take the beach codenamed Sword.

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"It was pretty emotional for Dad, "Mr (Chris) Edwards said. "Out of the guys in his little group, he's the only one left.

"It's quite hard for him - they had an understanding of what it was like, and they used to help each other out.

"They said all they wanted to do when they came back (from the war) was to make the best of their lives, because so many of them didn't come back.

"They had a pact that whoever was the last would keep going as long as he could."

Of the 75th anniversary commemorations, Mr (Chris) Edwards said: "Dad was so taken aback by the amount of kindness people showed him from all nationalities."

His father said the commemorations served to teach an important lesson to those who were not alive to remember the horrors of the Second World War first-hand.

"I think the younger generations need to understand what happened and why it happened," he said.

"With the school in Mondrainville, I'm so pleased it's a main part of their agenda."

He described war as "an obscene way to solve differences", adding: "I've got German friends. Certainly if we had talked we wouldn't have gone on killing each other."