Veteran celebrates 100th birthday and receives French Legion of Honour

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News Article / July 4, 2019

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From Deer Lodge Centre

Second World War veteran Corporal (retired) Ian Wilson was made a Knight (Chevalier) of the Legion of Honour (Légion d’honneur), France’s highest national distinction for merit, on June 15, 2019, at his residence, Deer Lodge Centre, in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Corporal Wilson and his family celebrated his 100th birthday following the presentation, although he didn’t officially reach the century mark until two days later.

Corporal Wilson’s extraordinary wartime story began 75 years ago. Originally a farm boy from Virden, Manitoba, he served as an armourer with the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 411 (Fighter) Squadron, which flew Spitfires. The squadron arrived in France only three days after D-Day. While serving overseas, he met his future wife Betty, a member of the Royal Air Force. Both now live at Deer Lodge Centre and are one of Canada’s last surviving Second World War veteran couples.

Mr. Bruno Burnichon of the French Consulate in Winnipeg presented the Legion of Honour to Corporal Wilson in recognition of his contribution to the defence and prosperity of France. The award was instituted in in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte. Technically, membership in the Legion is restricted to French citizens. However, foreign nationals who have served France or the ideals it upholds may receive a distinction of the Legion.

In 2014, in honour of the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the liberation of France, the French government announced it would award the distinction to veterans who took part in the invasion. However, after it became clear that a number of veterans had been missed in the original group of presentations, the nomination process was re-opened.

“To have this medal to be given to somebody that has permitted my family and all the French people to be here today, to be able to talk about it—it’s something that really does touch you and touch you deeply,” Mr. Burnichon told Global News.

Deer Lodge Centre traces its origins to 1916, when a military convalescent hospital was established for returning First World War soldiers; today it continues to treat military personnel and veterans alongside patients and residents from the broader community.


 

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