Legion of Honour

2018-09-18 06:00
Ian Kirkpatrick (right) is congratulated by Laurent Amar, Consul General of France, after he honoured Kirkpatrick with the Legion of Honour at the Embassy in Cape Town.

Ian Kirkpatrick (right) is congratulated by Laurent Amar, Consul General of France, after he honoured Kirkpatrick with the Legion of Honour at the Embassy in Cape Town.

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Seventy-four years after the Battle of Normandy, 93-year-old Ian Kirkpatrick from Fish Hoek was honoured by the Consul General of France, Laurent Amar, at the embassy in Cape Town, with the Legion of Honour medal for his part in the Battle of Normandy during World War II.

Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the Allied operation that launched the successful invasion of German-occupied Western Europe during World War II. The operation was launched on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings (Operation Neptune, commonly known as D-Day).

The Legion of Honour is the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits, established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte and retained by all the divergent governments and regimes later holding power in France, up to the present.

“I am honoured to receive the medal because most of my mates from the Black Watch, Royal Highland Regiment of Canada, are no longer with us so I am dedicating my medal to all those who have fallen and lost their lives during World War Two,” Kirkpatrick says.

He is originally from London and joined the army in 1942 at the age of 16.

“I joined after my cousin was killed during the war on the HSM Byron and I volunteered to go to war in his place. I was too young to join the navy and on my way home from the recruiting office an army officer was asking for volunteers. I told him a fib by saying I was 18 and was accepted to join the new recruits,” he says.

He had his military training in Inverness in Scotland and in Northern Ireland before he was shipped to the battlefield in Normandy in France.

“Me and my mates trained hard together and we never knew when we were going to join the war. We were just told to be at the docks in London at night and received new rifles and attire and stayed on the docks for three days. Everything was done in secret and after the three days we were kitted out with a one-piece wetsuit and loaded onto a big torpedo boat, not knowing where we were going.

“We landed in Normandy in France and walked through wheat fields and gravel roads to help with support on the ground for those who were airborne. I was shot four times during my stay in France and my thumb was split open by a bullet – a scar I am still wearing proudly today,” he says.

“My regiment consisted of 35 members and after the Battle of Normandy only 19 were left, of which I was one. We were picked up by the Canadians and returned to London. After the war I got married and worked in London,” he says.

His first wife fell ill and he was advised to move to a warmer climate if she was to improve as the wet and dreary weather in London was not doing her any good.

“I was given the choice to go to Malta or to South Africa. I went to South Africa House on Trafalgar Square and within 72 hours I sold my house and its contents, and my wife and I left with only a suitcase with clothes in 1970 for South Africa­.”

His first wife passed away 12 years ago and he was a bachelor for six years.

“Here are a lot of young-at-heart seniors living in Fish Hoek despite what our ID books suggest. I joined the local dance club (the oldest member), being a ballroom dancer and loving dancing, and met Pam (83), my second wife. We are now married for six years and I would definitely recommend marriage to all those young-at-heart seniors,” he says, smiling.

Pam describes their marriage as absolute harmony filled with love.

“Kirk, as he is known in Fish Hoek, has many similarities with my first husband. He is a gentleman, mischievous, would still open doors for me, spoils me rotten and would wait ’til I or any woman sits down before he takes his chair. We always put God first and pray together, also for others, but the best thing is that we start our day by dancing from the bedroom to the kitchen before we have breakfast,” she says.

They love travelling, listening to music and taking care of their two dogs, two cats and eight budgies, but the dancing keeps them fit and puts music in their daily lives.

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