Irish Dunkirk veteran still waiting for Legion of Honour Medal

97-year old George Rodgers is a veteran of WWII. Her served in the Royal Ulster Rifles and was part of the last defence during the Battle of Dunkirk. He served continuously from the outbreak of hostilities in 1939 until June 1945.

This frail, bedridden veteran still has flashbacks caused by the horrors of war. His son, George, told an interview with the BBC that his father has only recently started to talk about his experiences during the war, “He still has flashbacks after 70 years. He alone knows what it’s like. We only hear, but we can’t describe what he went through.

Last year, his son applied for the Legion of Honour, France’s highest military award, on behalf of his father. He has sent applications to the Ministry of Defence in London as they facilitate these applications and send details of service to the French Embassy in London. The MoD has received 2,400 applications from the UK, from soldiers that liberated France in 1944.

Having heard nothing from either the MoD or the French embassy, George has voiced his frustration at the delay, ´He’s 97 years of age and he hasn’t too many daylights to go. The sooner he gets it, definitely the better it would be for him. He would be so proud. I think he deserves it in the sense that he’s been to France. He’s fought on the beaches, he’s an elderly man and it would make him very happy, and the family.”

Both the MoD and the Embassy told the BBC that they have no record of the application but there is a priority scheme for veterans with poor health and Bill has been in contact with them to see if the entire process can be speeded up. The ministry has promised to investigate and ensure that it is not an ‘administrative hiccup’ that caused the delay.

George, who was seriously injured in a grenade explosion in Burma during the war, that resulted in his face being disfigured, has other medals gained through service to his country and he is immensely proud of all of them. “I wouldn’t sell them for a fortune. I wouldn’t let them go,” he said.

George reminisced about the evacuation from that ‘horrible place’, Dunkirk. He was taken off on the HMS Ross. “There were all kinds of ships and as soon as the bombers came over, you dove for the soil and got down deep if you can. I saw a fella one time, he was dead, and he had his waterproof cape on him. They tried to make it, but the Germans just took it away with a blast. Some blokes get a fear in them. They can’t move, they don’t move. I’m not going to be left because he’s afraid to go forward. You have to be prepared yourself. Sometimes I think we could have stopped and gone back again. If you’re in fear yourself, you’re never getting nowhere.”

One can only hope that this veteran of WWII will be recognised for the service he rendered to his country and to France. The medal that he seeks is not a favour but a right to this brave and steadfast man.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE