Légion d’honneur for British World War II veterans
The French government has been awarding the Légion d’honneur to D-Day veterans from many different countries for several years, as a way of honouring and thanking those who fought and risked their lives to secure France’s liberation during the Second World War
On the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June 2014, the French President announced that the distinction would be awarded to all British veterans who fought for the liberation of France during the Second World War (veterans must have taken part in military operations in France between 1944 and 1945). Three thousand applications were received in the space of a few months.
How are applications processed?
Applications should be sent to the British Ministry of Defence*, which checks that applicants fulfil the relevant criteria. These are then passed on to the French authorities. Applications should not be sent directly to the French Embassy or to the French authorities in Paris.
The French authorities subsequently endorse the names forwarded by the MoD for appointment to the Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, before an ad hoc decree is adopted.
Due to the vast number of applications received, a new administrative procedure was put in place in July 2015 in order to speed up the processing of applications. This new procedure has had the desired effect and applications are now being processed and confirmed at a much faster rate.
The French authorities attach great importance to ensuring each veteran receives their medal, and they are working hard, in coordination with the British authorities, to ensure that the majority of the veterans who have already sent their applications to the MoD receive their medal in the coming months.
*Ministry of Defence, DC Sec Commemorations, 6-C-01 Main Building, Whitehall, London SW1A 2HB
How are medals awarded?
Since June 2014, some 2,000 medals have been awarded. The French Ambassador to the United Kingdom has presided over several ceremonies, including:
at the Yorkshire Air Museum in April 2014
on Remembrance Day 2014
at the Royal Hospital Chelsea on 4 June 2015 (in the presence of HRH The Duke of York)
at the French Residence on 14 July 2015 - the French National Day - (in the presence of Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond)
in London on 29 September 2015 with the French Minister of State for Veterans and Remembrance
on 11 November in the presence of Minister Axelle Lemaire
at a ceremony in Birmingham on 1 December
at the Ambassador’s Residence on 9 December
in Tatton, Cheshire, in the presence of Chancellor George Osborne on Friday 8 January
in Cardiff, Wales, on Thursday 28 January, in the presence of UK Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabb MP.
At the Ambassador’s Residence on 16 February 2016
in Liverpool on the 19 February in Liverpool Town Hall.
The French Ambassador will continue awarding medals at a number of ceremonies already scheduled to take place in the months ahead. Because of the exceptionally large number of veterans involved, French consuls-general and honorary consuls around the UK will also be available to award medals at ceremonies for any veterans who wish to have their medal formally presented to them.
About the Légion d’honneur
The Légion d’honneur was established in 1802 by Napoléon Bonaparte. It is France’s highest distinction and is awarded in recognition of both military and civilian merit. On average, just 10 British nationals per year receive the Légion d’honneur.
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