War veterans awarded Legion D'Honneur medals at Worthing Town Hall
Released: Monday, 15 January 2018
Two war veterans have been honoured with France's highest order of merit to commemorate their service in the D-Day landings of World War Two.
On Saturday (13th January 2018) Captain François Jean, the Consul Honoraire de France, and Susan Piper, the Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex, presented the Legion D'Honneur medals to the servicemen in a special ceremony at Worthing Town Hall.
The honour, which was established by Napoleon in 1802, marked the selfless contribution of Flight Lieutenant Roy Smith and Private Geoffrey Penfold.
At 21 years old Flight Lieutenant Smith, a navigator on Short Stirling Bombers, flew an exhaustive 43 missions throughout Spring 1944, dropping supplies in the lead up to the invasion of France.
Private Penfold, who was a Durham Light Infantryman with the 49th Division, landed on the British-held beaches six days after D-Day and contributed to a number of key missions in the liberation of Europe.
As well as friends and family of the veterans, representatives of the Royal British Legion and Royal Air Forces Association attended the ceremony.
Councillor Alex Harman, the Mayor of Worthing, hosted the event, said:
“It was an honour to be part of this event to thank these two veterans whose stories speak of such great courage, bravery we still witness in our troops now in 2018.”
“We thank the French Consul and Lord Lieutenant for joining us to mark this special occasion and to think of those who were lost.”
Background information on Flight Lieutenant Smith:
Roy was a navigator on Short Stirling Bombers, the 199 squadron, which was based at Lakenheath then North Creake. The first few months of his war - from September 1943 - were spent on heavy bombing raids over Germany. But the Stirling was not man enough for the job - it flew at a height of around 12,000 feet, as opposed to the Lancasters and Halifax bombers which flew at 18-22,000 feet.
The Stirlings were nicknamed 'flying coffins' because, as well as being shot at by enemy fire from below they incurred damage and risk from bombs falling from allied aircraft above.
Because of this, it was used for alternative missions - such as the dropping of 'tinsel' which jammed the German radar, mining raids which, over the sea, involved hours of astro-navigation with no actual check pinpoint on land; and finally drops to the French Resistance - the latter being carried out at night at such low heights that a small tree branch was caught once in the tail wheel!
Roy's log book indicates night drops in red and were up to eight hours in length - flying over the Eastern Jura area of France, flying in as guided by the lit fires or torches of the French Resistance. Several of these were in the Spring of 1944, dropping supplies in the lead up to D Day in June 1944.
Roy was 21 years old when he commenced flying operations. He flew 43 missions in total - a miraculous number, considering the average was between eight and 11, before being shot down.
Background Information on Private Penfold:
Private Geoffrey Penfold, who was a Durham Light Infantryman with the 49th Division, actually landed on the British beach six days after the 6th June (being delayed two days by bad weather in the Channel).
Private Penfold feels very proud to receive this Honour bestowed upon him and is very conscious of those who started with him and did not survive to receive this Award given by the French people.
Photo: The two war veterans being awarded the Legion D'Honneur medals at Worthing Town Hall
Photo: The two veterans having been presented with their Legion D'Honneur medals, along with with The Mayor and other dignitaries
Photo: The two veterans with The Mayor and other dignitaries after the Legion D'Honneur medal ceremony at Worthing Town Hall
Photo: The Mayor and other dignitaries at the Legion D'Honneur medal ceremony at Worthing Town Hall
Photo: Representatives of the Royal British Legion and Royal Air Forces Association
- Photo of the Legion D'Honneur / Legion of Honour medal is from Wikimedia
- Legion D'Honneur / Legion of Honour medal on Wikipedia
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