P.E.I. veteran thrilled to join highest national order of France

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 20, 2016

Veteran Lloyd Gates, 91, of Charlottetown proudly holds the Knight of the Legion of Honour medal he received in December. He is among 13 P.E.I. veterans to receive the French government's highest honour for their efforts in helping liberate France during the Second World War.

©Jim Day/The Guardian

Second World War veteran Lloyd Gates is quite impressed with his latest medal.

So are many others.

"A lot of people are interested in this one,'' says the 91-year-old Charlottetown resident.

"It's quite a large medal - heavy, too.''

Not to mention a rather notable honour.

Two months ago, Gates received the Knight of the Legion of Honour medal in recognition of his personal involvement in the liberation of France during the Second World War.

When the invasion of France took place on June 6, 1944, Gates' Typhoon bomber, carrying four 20-millimetre guns and a 1,000-pound bomb under each wing took out German gun positions on the coast of France.

Recognition of his efforts is coming a bit late — almost 73 years — but he is not complaining.

Gates is thrilled to be among 13 P.E.I. veterans and more than 1,100 Canadian veterans to be bestowed with the French government's highest honour for helping liberate France in the form of a distinugished medal featuring a five-armed cross with a wreath of laurel leaves.

"I'm quite pleased and honoured to get it and to wear it,'' he says.

The medal will soon rest proudly on the veteran's blazer along with the 1939-45 France-Germany Star (the most meaningful and "senior'' medal on his bar), the Defence of Britain Medal, a Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, War Medal, Canadian Decoration and a Normandy Medal.

Gates wears his service medals every Remembrance Day, but also when he visits the Charlottetown Legion, where he is a life member.

A couple of Sundays ago, Gates brought his Knight of the Legion of Honour medal to show his congregation at the Park Royal United Church in Charlottetown.

He received a standing ovation.

"That's great,'' he says.

"I just have to wave them down.''

Gates notes sombrely and respectfully that the medal reminds him of all the Canadians who didn't come home from the Second World War.

"They are the ones who really deserve the medal but that's impossible,'' he says.

Fast facts

- Lloyd Gates of Charlottetown served in the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1943 to 1946 in Canada, England, Scotland, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.

- He re-enlisted in the RCAF Reserve in 1952 and served until 1964 as a pilot officer and retired as a flight lieutenant (captain).