Six Australian World War II veterans have been awarded France’s highest honour as part of commemorations for the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
The role played by Australian soldiers in Europe during the First World War is well known, but the contribution of Australian soldiers, pilots and sailors during the Second World War in Europe is less so, the French embassy’s defence attache says in a statement.
“The 70th anniversary of the D-Day landing is an opportunity to honour these Australian combatants who served in the Allied forces and contributed to the liberation of France,” the embassy statement said.
Former pilots Stuart Davis, Phillip Elger, Francis Evans, Dr Ronald Houghton and Billy Purdy of NSW, and Frederick Riley of South Australia received the Legion of Honour on Thursday for their roles in the historic battle at Normandy.
The French order recognises those who uphold the ideals of the country and is rarely given to foreigners.
The veterans are in France with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and will attend several commemoration ceremonies on Friday.
Fellow veteran Bob Cowper, who received the Legion of Honour in 2004, is also with the group. The South Australian served with the RAAF night fighter squadron.
The D-Day landings, the largest seaborne invasion in history, caught the Germans by surprise and played a crucial role in the Allied victory in the war.
More than 3000 Australians, mostly airmen, fought in the campaign, and 18 were killed. – AAP