Four Australian World War Two veterans have accepted one of the highest honours from France, the Légion d’honneur medal.
Donald McDonald was moved to emotional tears as they pinned the Légion d’honneur medallion on his left jacket breast. McDonald could not help but recount his crew of five Englishmen and one New Zealander as they had been very close to one another. Mr McDonald was the only one alive after the end of the war. He added that there were others who were far more deserving than him in receiving the honour. He was just lucky that he was the one who got a return ticket home when other soldiers were not so fortunate.
Denis Kelly, another Aussie to receive the award, comforted Mr McDonald when he broke down in tears – he too remembers how badly injured he and two others were after they bailed out of their Lancaster bomber after it was torn apart by German fighters.
Mr Kelly recounted how badly his leg was damaged when he landed in enemy territory over France. He told the others to go on without him as he could not walk due to this damaged leg. Left alone and fearing for his life, he passed out trying to drag himself to safety, only to be awakened by a French soldier who saved him and numerous others from an ultimate demise.
“I’m the only one alive. So I’m accepting this on behalf of the others,” he said with tears springing from his eyes.
French Ambassador Christophe Lecourtier described the four Aussie WWII vets as “true knights of liberation” upon giving their awards, Lecourtier thanked them personally by using the French word “Merci” summing up the immense gratitude he and his country have for the soldiers who help liberate France from the Nazis in World War Two.