South Surrey Second World War vet awarded French Legion of Honour

SOUTH SURREY — A veteran of the Second World War living in South Surrey is set to receive a prestigious award this Remembrance Day at Crescent Beach Legion.

John Mitges, now 93, was just 22 when he led the 18 Field Company of Royal Canadian Engineers as Reconnaissance Sergeant in a battle that helped liberate France. Seventy-one years later, the government of France has announced they will be awarding Mitges with the Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honour.

Mitges will be given the award by Marvin Hunt, MLA for Surrey-Panorama.

The ceremony has been organized by Chris Lythgo, a retired colonel of the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers, who says he’s proud to be part of a rare opportunity.

“I’m happy to be the co-ordinator for it because I think we should recognize our veterans who have sacrificed so much,” he said.

Lythgo, who wasn’t yet born in the early 1940s, said he learned a lot from being in the same corps as Mitges, only he was a couple generations behind him.

“Like all veterans of the Second World War, he was right at the front of the invasion,” Lythgo said of Mitges. “It was a very tough slog from the moment they landed on the beach ‘til they got wounded.”

The two men have spoken a few times about the upcoming ceremony.

“He’s obviously very honoured; he’s told me that,” Lythgo told the Now.

“For the French government to finally recognize surviving veterans that did help liberate France, he considers it a great honour,” he said, noting that Mitges still has all of his war medals.

“He had a very good post-war career with the Canadian engineers, and I know he was highly regarded when he retired… you don’t get (there) unless you have a very strong character and capabilities,” Lythgo said.

The Legion of Honour award will be presented to Mitges on Tuesday, Nov. 11 at Crescent Beach Legion 240 after the official Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Twitter: @kristialexandra

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