Presentation of the Legion of Honour
Wednesday 18 November, 2015
Source: Veterans SA
World War II veterans Bruce Philpot, George Heath and John Marshall, who received the French Legion of Honour.
On Wednesday 18 November four South Australian RAAF World War 2 veterans were presented with the French Légion d’honneur; Mr George Health, Mr Lloyd Leah, Mr John Marshall and Mr Bruce Philpot. The awards were presented by His Excellency Mr Christophe Lecourtier, Ambassador of France to Australia and hosted by Mrs Susan Crafter, Honorary Consul-General of France in South Australia. The awards were made five days after the European nation was devastated by terror attacks in its capital.
The awards were bestowed on the 70th anniversary of World War II. The veterans have now been recognised for their bravery, receiving France’s highest decoration.
Mr Philpot, 92, was a young pilot officer with the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command when his plane was shot down during the war. The plane was forced to land with one motor, and fortunately all seven crew members survived.
Mr Philpott said he was very proud to be honoured by France for his service during the war.
“Bomber Command never received a medal from the British Government, which was a bit disappointing,” he said.
“France has at least recognised what Bomber Command did – I’m proud to get this award from France.”
Mr Philpot enlisted in the air force in May 1942, serving for approximately four years. He was trained in Australia before spending two years in England as a member of the Bomber Command 15th Squadron at Mildenhall.
“We got shot down once and we landed on one motor, and the seven of us survived and finished the tour,” he said.
“I was pretty nervous at times when the plane got hit – it was a scary situation and we were young and silly.”
The Legion of Honour is an order of distinction established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802.
Mr George Heath
After enlisting in September 1942, Mr Heath engaged in the 102 Squadron, where he participated in many bombing missions over France as a Halifax Air Gunner. He flew over different French cities such as Boulogne, or Massy Palaiseau. On D-Day Mr Heath took part in the offensive by bombing Maisy, St Lo and Alencon.
Mr Lloyd Leah
After joining the RAAF December 1941, Mr Leah was an air-operator in heavy bombers over occupied France, from air bases in England. His targets were Rennes, Tours, Revigny. He also followed the bombing operation at Caen in support of the Normandy landings.
Mr John Marshall
After joining the RAAF in 1942 as a Lancaster bomber navigator, Mr Marshall participated in many bombing missions over France with the 35 RAF Lancaster Bomber Squadron. In support of D-Day landings on the 6th June, he took off in his Lancaster Aircraft for Longues. On his return flight, he could see the sky full of planes and the sea covered with ships on the way to France.
Mr Bruce Philpot
After joining the RAAF in 1942, Mr Philpot participated with the 15 Squadron in more than 30 missions. He flew in Lancaster Bombers from England over Europe and France, especially Le Bourget near Paris and including patrolling on D-Day.
Read the speech by Susan Crafter, Honorary Consul-General of France in South Australia.
Legion of Honour_Speech