The Veterans Memorial Lodge at Broadmead is home to many Canadian heroes, and a half-dozen of them just received France’s highest honour.
Last week, six veterans from the facility were presented with the Legion of Honour for their roles in liberating the country during the Second World War. Established by Napoleon Bonaparte during the French Revolution in 1802, the Legion of Honour commends soldiers for their exemplary service to France.
“This is the highest recognition from France, and for the chief and I, it’s certainly a really significant honour in our careers to represent France and Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces in presenting these honours today,” said Commodore Marta Mulkins, who presented the medals with Formation Chief Petty Officer Mike Feltham.
“You realize that when they were doing this, they were 18, 19, 20, 21 years old,” said Feltham. “It’s great that France recognizes them and Canada recognizes them.”
The recipients included Jack Porter, Bill Capek, Ken Parton, Geoff Lesueur, Philip Jeffrey and Earl Clark
Porter joined the South Alberta Reserve Regiment, telling recruiters that he was 19 when, in actuality, he was still in Grade 9. He served as a sergeant in charge of technical stores, landing on the beaches of Normandy with supply trucks that supported the tanks.
Capek served with the Lake Superior Scottish during the invasion of Normandy, driving his carrier onto the beaches and on to Cannes, where fighting was heavy. His regiment went on to free the canals in Holland and fought their way into Germany.
Parton served with the 8th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment, driving a bren gun carrier through Holland, Belgium, Germany and France. He had many harrowing experiences while at war, including the death of a brave friend and fellow soldier at the hands of a female sniper, and a near miss by a bullet that got embedded behind his seat in the carrier.
Lesueur voluntarily enlisted in the Royal Canadian Airforce in 1942 at 19. He flew 48 missions in 1944 and 1945 as a rear tail gunner in a Lancaster bomber with the 49th and 83rd Squadrons, including D-Day and many Pathfinder flights.
Jeffrey was a leading coxswain with the 262 Landing Craft Infantry Flotilla, which stormed Juno Beach as part of the combined ops on D-Day.
Clark was a logger before and during the war with the Canadian Forestry Corps in northern Scotland. His group took a Polish ship across the English Channel to Juno Beach, where they scrambled down netting from the ship’s hull to get to the landing craft.
In addition to receiving their medals, the veterans were greeted by members of the Maritime Forces Pacific, recognizing them for their efforts during the Second World War.
“We lose veterans everyday, so to pass this honour now is important,” said Feltham. “That’s why we brought so many young sailors with us so they could see what their forefathers did.”
“It’s really recognition of courage and sacrifice, and as long as there are Canadians to remember, these folks here will be remembered,” said Mulkins.