Surrey D-Day veterans awarded France’s highest medal

SURREY — It has been more than 70 years since Surrey residents Gérard Gaudet and John Thompson stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day and helped liberate France and the rest of western Europe from Nazi tyranny.

On Monday, the French government honoured the men’s service by bestowing on them the highest possible award that country can give, L’ordre national de la Légion d’honneur – the equivalent of the Order of Canada.

The pair became part of a very few foreign nationals to be awarded the medal in recognition of their bravery and service to France.

"As young men, you left your families and homes to cross the Atlantic and participate in some of the fiercest battles in modern history, on a foreign soil, far away from your country, to help the people of Europe to free themselves from the terror and tyranny," said Jean-Christophe Fleury, consul of the French Embassy, who awarded the men the medals at the Whalley Legion.

John Thompson
John Thompson, centre, receives the L’ordre national de la Légion d’honneur from Jean-Christophe Fleury, consul of the French Embassy, left. (Photo: Adrian MacNair)

"Your accomplishments during the Second World War are a vibrant reminder of the profound and historic friendship that bound France and Canada. Our two countries owe each other their very existence as free nations and this indeed creates a special relationship."

Fleury said the French people will never forget the Canadian soldiers’ bravery during the Normandy Landing that helped restore freedom in Europe.

There are only an estimated 600 Canadian D-Day veterans still living in Canada. Last year French President Francois Hollande decreed the Légion d’honneur will be bestowed upon an additional 500 D-Day veterans over the coming year.

Gaudet, now 92, served in the 23rd field company of the Commander Royal Engineers clearing land mines on the beaches of Normandy.

Thompson, also 92, was a member of the Royal Canadian Airforce serving with 129 Wing as part of the Second Tactical Air Force Unit and was involved in air operations over Normandy on June 26, 1944.

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