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Top French honour for NZ veterans

Thu, 24 Feb 2005

Top French honour for NZ veterans

The government today welcomed the investiture of France's Legion d'Honneur on seven New Zealand World War Two veterans.

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Prime Minister Helen Clark and Veterans' Affairs Minister George Hawkins today welcomed the investiture of the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest military honour, on seven New Zealand World War Two veterans.

Visiting French Veterans' Affairs Minister Hamlaoui Mekachera is to make the awards in appreciation of the New Zealanders' service on D-Day in 1944.

"As part of the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day the French Government has presented Legion d'Honneur awards to veterans from countries which participated in the landings at Normandy. The representative awards are made in recognition and appreciation of the veterans' courage and sacrifice," Helen Clark and George Hawkins said.

Nearly 10,000 New Zealand air force and navy personnel served with British ships and air force squadrons which supported the D-Day landings.

During last year's sixtieth anniversary commemorations in France, Helen Clark attended the investiture of the Legion d'Honneur on a representative group of veterans, including New Zealander John Pattison.

The four veterans to be presented with their awards in Wellington today are Anthony Bain (Gisborne ), David Irwin (Featherston), Leonard Jane (Mosgiel), and Maurice Mayston (Lower Hutt).

British veterans Herbert Christison and Phyllis Jason-Smith, who live in New Zealand and have been active members of the New Zealand Normandy Veterans' Association, will also receive the award.

John Tarbuck (Auckland), Trevor Strong (Auckland), and Roy Brookes (Whangamata) will receive their awards in Auckland tomorrow.

"This is a mark of the warm relationship which exists between New Zealand and France. This year is also the sixtieth anniversary of established diplomatic relations between New Zealand and France," Helen Clark and George Hawkins said. "As the close relationship between New Zealand and France continues, we must never forget that its foundations were laid during times of war when New Zealand went to the defence of France."

Helen Clark said that last year in Paris she signed the Shared Memory Arrangement between New Zealand and France.

"It seeks to increase public awareness of our shared history of war, honour the war dead, support the preservation of heritage sites and historical material, and foster increased links between the two countries' ex-service organisations," Helen Clark said.

"The arrangement will encourage projects to enhance the New Zealand/France relationship and ensure that young people from both countries develop an appreciation of our shared history."

ENDS

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