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An Admirable Admiral

Posted on Wednesday, June 02 at 09:13 by -Mario-

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An admirable admiral
France to induct N.S. naval hero into venerable Legion of Honour
By BILL POWER / Staff Reporter

France's highest honour for bravery and service will be bestowed upon one of Nova Scotia's naval heroes Sunday.

Retired rear admiral Desmond Piers will formally be inducted into the Legion d'Honneur and receive the prestigious five-point medal, with red ribbon, designed for Napoleon in the early 1800s.

"It is absolutely our highest recognition of bravery in military action and service," France's consul general, Michel Freymuth, said Tuesday.

The presentation of the medal and a certificate indicating membership in the Legion of Honour will cap ceremonies in Halifax on Sunday commemorating the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

The retired rear admiral and his wife Janet greeted news of the accolade with enthusiasm at their home in Chester on Tuesday.

"We had the advantage of knowing the setup on the beach from previous missions," he said of the events of D-Day morning.

"The battle line extended 20 miles to our west. . . . It was quite a scene. . . . Behind us were thousands upon thousands of troops waiting to come ashore."

The 90-year-old with the childhood nickname Debby is one of Canada's Second World War naval legends.

Mr. Piers was just 27 when he took command of HMCS Restigouche and only 30 when he guided HMCS Algonquin and its officers and crew through the D-Day conflagration.

France wants to officially recognize Mr. Piers for his contribution to the D-Day invasion and also for his subsequent missions between England and Normandy, Mr. Freymuth said.

"Algonquin was the first Canadian ship to attack, so Allied forces could begin landing in the area."

The Algonquin and its crew provided vital support to members of the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division, which pushed far into enemy territory on D-Day.

France enrolled 10 other Canadian war heroes as Knights of the Legion of Honour in Ottawa at a May 27 ceremony.

The 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion will be commemorated in Halifax on Sunday with a morning parade and ceremonies at the Halifax Forum.

During a special two minutes of silence, an estimated 100,000 poppies, each bearing the name of a veteran, will be featured.

Mr. Piers has often attributed the achievements of HMCS Algonquin in the D-Day invasion to the skill and diligence of the ship's officers and crew, and he repeated that Tuesday.

"This is for all of those guys," he said of the honour from France that he will receive Sunday.

Mr. Piers went on to command a number of other Canadian battleships involved in the Battle of the Atlantic and other major war events. After the war, he continued to enjoy a long and distinguished naval career.

He was an active volunteer in retirement and was agent general for Nova Scotia in the United Kingdom and Europe from 1977 to 1979.

The Halifax Herald Limited

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