A man who ran away as a 17-year-old to fight in the First World War is to receive a prestigious gallantry award from the French more than 80 years later.

James Davidson, now 101 and living in a Keighley nursing home, fought in some of the bloodiest battles in France between 1914 and 1918.

Now, more than 80 years later, the French are to present him with Legion d'Honneur - the Legion of Honour - which until recently was only presented to French heroes.

Mr Davidson, who lives at the Northfield Manor Residential Home in Keighley, says he is delighted he is being honoured for his courage and sacrifice by the French Government.

It will join the other World War One medals he received in 1918 - the rare Mons Star, only given to soldiers who fought in the first few months, the 1914-18 British War Medal and 1914-19 Victory Medal.

Today his grand-daughter Gillian Warriner, of Bingley, said: "We are very proud of grandfather and he is delighted with the award but he has a very short-term memory. He now doesn't want to talk about the war whereas a few years ago he would tell some tales.

"He told us how he occasionally fell asleep on sentry duty and how, when he was gassed, they took him to the mortuary before they found he was still alive."

Now he enjoys the quiet life and seeing his great grandchildren Lucy, four, Emily, three and three-months-old Dominic.

The French Government today confirmed he is to receive the Legion of Honour which would be sent on to the Royal British Legion West Yorkshire branch which will arrange the presentation.

County officer David Durrans said as soon as it arrived he hoped to arrange a special presentation, possibly involving the Lord Mayor of Bradford.

"This is a very proud occasion for Mr Davidson and the Royal British Legion. The French Government wanted to honour these men and this year - the 80th anniversary of the armistice - is the last occasion they could do it."

He is one of only 250 throughout the country to receive the medal.

Mr Davidson, a retired farmer who was in the Lancashire Fusiliers, fought in the battle of the Somme in the summer of 1916.

He also faced tragedy at home when his wife Sarah died, aged 29, giving birth to their only daughter, Laura.

Milestones in the life of James Davidson

1897: Mr Davidson is born on the family farm in Cumbria on January 25. Soon after his 17th birthday he runs away to join the army.

About 1914: He enlists in the Lancashire Fusiliers and soon after training is posted out to France where he fights in the first great battle of Mons, which saw the British army in retreat.

1916: Sees him at the battle of the Somme which started on July 1, a notorious day in the history of the British army. There were 60,000 casualties on the first day - 20,000 dead - the highest in any single day of any army in the war. He is gassed, and presumed dead - but pulls through.

1918: At the end of the war he returns to farming in Cumbria.

1933: Tragedy strikes when his wife Sarah dies, aged 29, shortly after giving birth to daughter Laura.

1965: He retires and continues to live at home until the late 1990s when his granddaughter Gillian Warriner, of Bingley, gets him to move to Yorkshire to live at Northfield Manor residential home, Keighley.

1998: Honoured by the French and awarded the Legion d'Honneur medal for his courage and sacrifice in the 1914-18 War.

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