British World War II veterans awarded Légion d’honneur
French Veterans Minister presented 15 British veterans with Légion d’honneur for their role in liberation of France
Tuesday 29 September 2015
On Tuesday 29 September 2015, 15 British World War II veterans were presented with the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest distinction, at a ceremony at the French Ambassador’s Residence in Kensington, London.
The medals were presented by Jean-Marc Todeschini, French Minister of State for Veterans and Remembrance, in the presence of Sylvie Bermann, the French Ambassador to the United Kingdom; Rear Admiral Patrick Chevallereau, the French Embassy’s Defence Attaché and the Rt Hon. Earl Howe, Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords.
The veterans were honoured for the role they played in securing France’s liberation during the Second World War, with many of them having taken part in the D-Day landings in June 1944.
Minister Todeschini said: “On 6 June 2014, on the beach at Ouistreham, in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, French President François Hollande sent a strong message of gratitude to Allied soldiers, and particularly to the British.
“Today, one year on, it is a true honour for me to come here and and echo that message.
“Gentlemen, you are living witnesses to a history you wrote on our soil, a history which shaped your identity, our identity and those of Britain and France.
“This ceremony is not only a thankyou to men who were ready to give their lives to liberate us. It is also a message to every British person: that we shall not forget. That we shall never forget.”
Thomas Hassall, 89 and from Crewe, was one of the veterans to receive the distinction.
Mr Hassall, who was a Lance Corporal in the West Yorkshire Regiment in Normandy in June 1944, told the BBC: "I shall treat this honour with tremendous pride.
"Not only for myself, but for those people who can’t apply, those people who didn’t come back. I was one of the lucky ones."
RAF code breaker Bernard Morgan, 91, was also among those to receive the medal.
Mr Morgan told the Ministry of Defence: “I feel very honoured to be considered for the Légion d’honneur, and to receive it from the French government. I am grateful to the French government for giving the award.”
The ceremony was the latest in a number of special ceremonies that have taken place since the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June 2014, when President François Hollande pledged to honour all those British veterans who had served in France during the war.
Students from London’s two French secondary schools, the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle and the Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill, which was inaugurated last week by President Hollande, also read out the veterans’ military achievements.