France’s Légion d’honneur for rear-gunner Swale

2018-06-07 16:33
In commemoration of the 74th anniversary of D-Day on Wednesday, John Swale (94), who was a airman during World War 2, was awarded the Légion d’honneur award (France's highest distinction) by the Defence Attache Olivier Ducret at a ceremony at Kenwyn on Tuesday.

In commemoration of the 74th anniversary of D-Day on Wednesday, John Swale (94), who was a airman during World War 2, was awarded the Légion d’honneur award (France's highest distinction) by the Defence Attache Olivier Ducret at a ceremony at Kenwyn on Tuesday. (Ian Carbutt)

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A Pietermaritzburg man was awarded the prestigious Légion d’honneur (France’s highest distinction) by the French presidency this week for his heroic role while serving in the Royal Air Force (RAF) on D-Day.

John Swale (94) is one of the few surviving veterans of the Allied invasion on June 6, 1944 which led to the liberation of German-occupied northwestern Europe from Nazi control.

Around 175 000 troops belonging to the Allied forces crossed the Channel and landed on the coast of northern France in Normandy.

On Tuesday, a day before the 74th anniversary of D-Day was commemorated, Swale was awarded the Légion d’honneur by French Defence Attache Olivier Ducret at a ceremony at Kenwyn, where he was joined by neighbours and friends.

Swale said he was “surprised” by the award but appreciated the recognition. “I wasn’t expecting this award but I feel honoured to receive it as it is a symbol of honour and recognition for my role in the army by the president of France.”

Swale, who was born on July 1923 in Chiddingly, Sussex, in England, joined the RAF in May 1942. He joined 75 Squadron in June 1944, where he served until September 1944.

Swale took part in air operations in northwest Europe as a rear gunner on bombing missions. Swales said he felt fortunate to have survived “the deadly war as most of my comrades didn’t make it”.

A few years after World War 2, Swale moved to South Africa where he worked as an electrical and civil engineer in Pietermaritzburg, which eventually became his home.

Swale said he will keep his medal locked up in a safe for now but will be taking it back to the UK when he next visits family and friends.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  d-day award

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