Written by Derek St Clair-Stannard MBE, Former Lieutenant RNVR
The Legion d’Honneur, which dates from 1803, was the brainchild of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte when he was 1st Consul.
To my mind the delightful ceremony at the magnificent Residence of the French Ambassador in Palace Gardens Terrace on Monday 14th November when nine WWII veterans, myself included, were decorated with the insignia of a Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur by the Deputy French Ambassador, Mons. Jacques Audibert, was one way the French Government could pay tribute to British servicemen,represented on this occasion by nine veterans, who played such a large part in liberating France from the common enemy, 1939-1945.
This is especially true during the year 2005 when the 60th anniversary of the ending of that war is being commemorated.
The hospitality of the Deputy Ambassador and his Staff was what one might have expected from the French – generous with great attention to detail.
Many relatives and friends of the veterans had been invited to witness the ceremony including a group of schoolchildren who, in a manner of speaking, were given a live history lesson! Champagne and delicious canapés were handed round while the veterans were photographed; and engaged in conversation with the French officials present.
I have no doubt but that this function, so carefully arranged in our honour, will be something always to be remembered by those present.
I served throughout the last war in the Royal Navy; and the fact that I was involved in landings at Dieppe , Algiers and The Lebanon as well as in Provence , all parts of French territory at the time, may explain why I was selected to receive the highest award that can be bestowed by the French Government.