War hero awarded France’s highest honour for bravery

Eion McEwan with his medal.
Eion McEwan with his medal.

A war veteran from Milton of Campsie has received France’s highest honour for his bravery during the Second World War.

Former paratrooper Eion McEwan (94) was awarded the Legion D’Honneur by the French government.

The sprightly senior citizen told the Herald: “I was delighted to receive this 
honour.”

Eion received the honour for his part in the Liberation of France during World War II.

Eion told the Herald: “We were only in the country for 17 days but our mission was to 
destroy all the roads from Italy to France.

“This meant the Germans had to move all their forces by boat and our navy was waiting for them.”

Eoin volunteered in 1940 and joined the famous Black Watch 3rd BattalionRoyal 
Regiment of Scotland.

Within a year, he then found himself selected to form part of the crackspecial forces 5th (Scottish) Parachute Battalion.

As well as active service in France Eion saw action in North Africa, Greece and Italy.

He told the Herald: “I was an apprentice coach builder. In 1940, every young person was getting called up. A 
couple of boys I knew were called to the coal mines but no way did I want to work in a pit.

“So on my 18th birthday I told my mother I was going to join up.

“I joined the Black Watch and then, a year later, I 
was asked to be part of the 
parachute regiment.”

During his service in Italy, Eoin was also invited to the Vatican. He said: “During the war the Vatican was an open city. Althought I’m not catholic, I was given a blessing by the Pope.”

A photo of Eion and two of his comrades Nigel Turnbull of Denny and Jimmy Love of Kilsyth sits pride of place in his living-room during a 
reunion at the Cassino War Cemetery in Italy more than a decade ago.

The war hero said: “I would be really interested to know if any other war veterans in this area have received this medal.

“It’s sad that many won’t because they are no longer here.”

Eion has been invited to a special ceremony in London in March to receive his honour but unfortunately says he is unable to attend because of his health.

Married to late wife Cathie McParlane for 50 years, he emigrated to America in 1960, where they both helped to set up a Jewish community centre in New York. They both 
returned to Scotland in 1980.

He said: “Cathie, was very well known in Kirkintilloch. She was a great highland dancer and a member of Kirkintilloch Pipe Band.”

And the secret of his long life? Eion said: “I’ve never smoked a cigarette once. Never liked them.”