A 92-year-old Second World War veteran and Bosham resident has received the highest possible honour from the French government.
Fred Bailey, was awarded the Legion d’Honnour by captain Francois Jean, the honorary, consul for France at Portsmouth’s D Day museum last Wednesday.
“I feel very proud to have received this award and I am very greatful to the French government,” said Mr Bailey, who was previously awarded
the Croix du Guerre with a bronze star for his service in the liberation of France.
This was a very special day for Mr Bailey, whose family and friends travelled far and wide to share his special moment with a celebratory dinner.
Mr Bailey joined the army on his 18th birthday in November, 1941. He said: “The training was very intense but I stayed with it as I knew
that I was doing something useful.”
Mr Bailey was deployed to one of a hundred Jedburgh Teams as a radio operator.
These were three-person international teams of volunteers trained to drop in behind enemy lines and arm, train and assist the resistance and gather intelligence prior to the allied invasion.
His team sailed to Algiers in 1944 and were one of 15 teams dropped into Southern France under the cover of moonless nights.
“We had been trained to land at 800 feet but we were dropped at 1,800. I landed in a disused brick yard, but luckily landed in a good position, uninjured,” said Fred, who has lived in Bosham for 45 years after moving to the village in 1971.
Mr Bailey’s gathering and relaying of intelligence back to Algiers was vital. One of his coded messages enabled a squad of Mosquito fighter planes to destroy a German convoy.
The work was dangerous and discovery or betrayal meant that the chances of surviving more than six weeks were given at 50 per cent. He said that his team survived several close calls.
He went on to serve in Burma and Malaya. After leaving the army, he worked for the water company as a chartered secretary and treasurer until he retired in 1996.
Covered by the official secrets Act, Mr Bailey, like his comrades who survived, said little of their experiences for many years.
His daughter in Law, Maxine Harcourt-Kelly said: “It is a testament to the character of Fred and the other Jedburgh’s that little was known publicly of their efforts and sacrifices for so long.
“Indeed even now very few are familiar with the incredibly brave and daring behaviour of people like Fred.”
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