Legion of Honour: Never too late for recognition

Navy News / April 17, 2020

By Peter Mallett

Personnel from Canada’s navy and army helped make 95-year-old Legion of Honour recipient Ron Bath’s big moment in the spotlight a little bit brighter.

The retired able seaman and resident of Graystone Manor in Maple Ridge, B.C., was part of the Allies’ D-Day landings as a member of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN).

He received France’s highest order of merit from Consul General of France Philippe Sutter in a March 9, 2020, ceremony.

Celebrating that moment with him were members of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Vancouver, Naval Reserve Unit HMCS Discovery, and the 15th Field Artillery Regiment.

“It’s a great feeling and I am very proud to receive this medal. I was surprised and touched by the number of military personnel who attended,” said Bath.

The Legion of Honour was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte and has been awarded to more than 93,000 people worldwide. In 2015, the French Government began honouring 1,000 Canadian veterans with the award to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing.

Bath was directly involved in many beach landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944, and the days that followed, working as a signalman on landing craft with the RCN’s 262nd Flotilla. Facing enemy fire and great peril, they ferried troops to the beaches of Normandy, including Juno and Omaha.

“Receiving this award has brought back memories of those I served with on the landing craft and D-Day itself,” said Bath.

In the final months of the war, he served aboard Canadian frigate HMCS La Hulloise as its helmsman, and as an aircraft handler on the aircraft carrier HMCS Warrior

Born in Blyth, England, Bath and his family moved to the former B.C. mining town of Michel, near Nelson. The navy wasn’t Bath’s initial choice. When war broke out in Europe he was only 14 and tried joining Canada’s army twice until his mother intervened. When he was finally old enough to register on his 18th birthday, he signed up with the RCN and completed part of his pre-deployment training at CFB Esquimalt, B.C.

Bagpiper Sergeant Colin Barrett of the Delta Police Pipe Band piped Bath into the common room where the ceremony was held.

Two crew members from HMCS Vancouver made the trip to Graystone Manor: ship’s coxswain Chief Petty Officer 1st Class (CPO1) Steven Wist and acting chief boatswain’s mate Petty Officer 1st Class James Sunderland.

“Having a naval presence during this ceremony was extremely important given that Mr. Bath was a naval veteran who contributed to the success of the landings at Normandy,” said CPO1 Wist. “It was a greater honour for us to attend this prestigious event.”

Courtesy of Lookout