Coquitlam WWII veteran receives France's highest honour
Deadline for veterans to apply for award now extended indefinitely by French embassy
At 92-years-old, Second World War veteran and long-time Coquitlam resident William Leland Berrow has been awarded the French Legion of Honour.
France's highest order for civil and military merits was presented to Berrow at the end of January to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy and Provence. The medal honours those who helped liberate France during the war.
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According to the French embassy in Ottawa over 1,000 Canadian veterans have applied for the award which had an initial deadline of Dec. 2013, before being extended to July 2015. But, the embassy has now indicated that deadline has been extended indefinitely.
That's welcome news for Guy Black, an advocate for Canadian veterans from Port Moody, who has been helping eligible veterans with their applications and spreading the word to those remaining veterans before time runs out.
"I believe it is important to give back, service above oneself, and especially helping veterans receive recognition for their service and sacrifice," said Black.
The liberation of France
The award is one of many for Berrow, who doesn't get too enthused by the recognition.
In 1941, a 17 year-old Berrow lied about his age in his seventh attempt to enlist in the war effort.
He says it didn't matter if it was the army, navy, or air force, he wanted to join up for a new pair of shoes and to fight the Nazis.
His company landed in France at Juno beach a few days after the June 6, 1944 D-Day operation.
He recalls the generosity of the French people the Canadians helped liberate, sharing what little they had remaining after the Germans had pillaged their homes.
"They were very good if they had anything," said Berrow. "Of course we felt bad for them too because they had very little left, the German army had taken everything they had, like livestock, and everything."
Now a Knight of the French National Order of the Legion of Honour, Berrow still prefers to tell tales of his fellow soldiers rather than recount his own contributions.
However, his daughter in-law, Mary-Lou Berrow, who had been working on his application has much praise for him and all the veterans who made sacrifices for the rest of us.
"It's easy to forget, you know, you just go along in your everyday life and here we are. How did we get here? What if they hadn't been there? It would have been a totally different world wouldn't it," said Mary-Lou Berrow.
Any veterans who would like to apply for the honour can find more information on the Veterans Affairs Canada website.