French honour for Bomber Command pilot’s war heroism

Don Mason with his medal from France. Picture: John Jeffay
Don Mason with his medal from France. Picture: John Jeffay
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A 94-YEAR-OLD war veteran has finally been awarded France’s highest honour for his D-Day heroism.

Don Mason, who was a pilot with bomber command, received the Legion d’honneur from the French government.

He said: “It is an honour to get the Legion d’honneur but I was assigned a duty and I did it.”

Mr Mason, of Thurso, Caithness, flew 21 men from the 6th Airborne division into France on 5 June 1944, the day before the D-Day landings which helped liberate Europe from Nazi Germany.

He also helped supply resistance movements in France, Norway and Denmark before and after D-Day under the auspices of the Special Operations Executive.

In all, he flew about 80 
missions as part of Bomber Command and the Airborne Support.

In December 1944 he was posted to the Transport Squad and flew between the UK and the Far East until he was demobbed in December 1946.

Mr Mason, who is from the Midlands but has lived in Caithness since 1988, received a letter on behalf of French President Francois Hollande, telling him about his award.

It read: “I offer you my warmest congratulations on this high honour in recognition of your acknowledged military engagement and your steadfast involvement in the liberation of France during World War II.

“We must never forget heroes like you who came from Britain and the Commonwealth to begin the liberation of Europe by liberating France.

“We owe our freedom and security to your dedication because you were ready to risk your life.”

An award ceremony could be organised through the French Honorary Consul’s office but Mr Mason did not want to travel to Edinburgh or Glasgow for the presentation.

The plan to award the medal to veterans was mooted last year during the 70th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day landings.

Mr Mason has been part of an initiative called Their Past, Your Future since 2005 and regularly gives talks on his experiences as a pilot during the Second World War to groups, clubs and schools in Caithness. He has also travelled to Glenrothes and Leicester as part of the project.