9 Oct 2015

Two NZers awarded French Legion of Honour

7:35 pm on 9 October 2015

Two New Zealanders have been awarded the French Legion of Honour for their services during World War II.

Frank Hill (left) and Donald Ivey

Frank Hill (left) and Donald Ivey Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

Donald Ivey from Timaru and Christchurch-born Frank Hill, received the honour from French ambassador Florence Jeanblanc-Risler at the Christchurch Memorial RSA tonight.

A Flying Officer, Mr Ivey enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1941, after training in Canada he arrived in the UK in December 1943.

He flew missions as part of the Second Tactical Air Force during D-Day, supporting the invasion of Normandy.

Donald Ivey and Florence Jeanblanc-Risler

Donald Ivey and Florence Jeanblanc-Risler Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

"D-Day was my 22 or 23rd birthday it was a hell of a celebration flying around, that's what I loved to do."

"It's 70 years since I got back from the war, to finally get recognised is an honour."

Mr Ivey said he flew 65 missions behind enemy lines, but many were lucky to make 30.

His love of aviation has never stopped, Mr Ivey last flew when he was 86, and is the patron of the Ashburton Aviation Museum.

Frank Hill, 92, also received the Legion of Honour, he enlisted in the Army Territorial Force in April 1942.

"I joined for the adventure, most people would say they joined for patriotism but for me it was all about getting out and seeing the world.

"They transferred me to the navy and never taught me to swim, I suppose there was no point, the waters over there were so cold you wouldn't last long."

Mr Hill said it was an absolute honour to receive the French Legion.

"I actually cannot believe it, I don't understand why they are giving it to me I just did as I was told."

He said he is going to display the medal in his New Brighton home so when people come to visit him, it is the first thing they see.

Frank Hill (from left), French ambassador Florence Jeanblanc-Risler and Donald Ivey

Frank Hill (from left), French ambassador Florence Jeanblanc-Risler and Donald Ivey Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

The pair join 12 other New Zealanders who hold the Legion of Honour, which was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802.

French Ambassador Florence Jeanblanc-Risler said the medals recognised their courage and unfailing commitment throughout their military service.

"The honours are part of an initiative introduced for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Normandy to recognise veterans who fought in the Second World War."

Mrs Jeanblanc-Risler said about 12 more New Zealand World War II veterans were in line for the honour.

"Tracking people down and getting the paper work done in France takes a while, but we do need to speed the process up, next week I was supposed to be presenting the honour to two men in Auckland but unfortunately one of the men died last week."

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