A 100-YEAR-OLD born and bred in Stourbridge is to receive the highest possible French order of merit medal in recognition of his military service during the Second World War.

Eric Skelding will receive the celebrated Legion d'Honneur medal for his part in the liberation of France in 1944 and 45.

The medal is one of the highest accolades awarded by the French government, and Eric is among those surviving veterans who will receive the medal to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation.

Born in 1917 and brought up in Stourbridge, Eric was a member of the Stourbridge Players theatre group in his youth and he became good friends with Chris Gittins who went on to play Walter Gabriel in The Archers.

Before the war, Eric worked for the National Federation of Ironmongers.

He volunteered to join the army in 1939 and was part of the British Expeditionary Force which was eventually evacuated at Dunkirk in June 1940.

A member of the South Staffordshire Regiment, with whom he took part in the Normandy landings in June 1944, he fought through Normandy (including the battle for Caen), the liberation of France, followed by Belgium, Holland and finally Germany.

In the later stages of the war, he transferred to the Suffolk Regiment.

And following the end of hostilities, Eric started a theatre group to entertain troops still stationed in Germany - through which he met his wife, Andrée.

They married in 1949 and had two children together.

He continued to act occasionally, including a spell in The Archers.

After the war he returned to his former job - eventually becoming director of the organisation and running a group of industrial trade associations based in Birmingham and Tamworth.

Eric said: "Looking back now, it seems like a different world, and I am glad that I have taken time to record in writing as best I can my memories of what happened during the war years and my time in the Army.

"I look back with some sadness because so many lives were lost, but also with enormous pride to have played my part in events that are still being talked about all these years later."

Eric, now a resident at Ashby Court Bupa care home in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, will be presented with his medal by Jean-Claude Lafontaine, Honorary Consul of France for the East Midlands, on Friday September 15.

He said: "I’m extremely honoured and grateful to be receiving the Legion d’Honneur more than 70 years after the liberation of France and will never forget the significance of the sacrifice made by so many during those months.”

Liz Burrows, deputy home manager at Ashby Court Bupa Care Home, said: "Eric is what you would call the perfect gentleman. He's courteous, softly spoken and has lots to talk about, and he always has something interesting to say.

"He'll often talk to us in French and make us giggle, and whenever he talks to anyone at the home, it's always a very engaging conversation. He's a very popular resident."