Colin Deverell DFM a Tenterden resident has been appointed a Chevalier in the Ordre national de la Legion d'Honneur, France's highest military honour, for his services to the French Resistance during the Second World War
Colin Deverell, DFM
The President of the Royal British Legion in Tenterden, Colin Deverell DFM, has been appointed a Chevalier in the Ordre national de la Legion d'honneur, France's highest military honour, for his services to the French Resistance during the Second World War.
Colin brought his insignia and letter of appointment from the French Ambassador to show members and guests at the British Legion meeting at The White Lion Tenterden on Tuesday, 11th September.
1943 was the start of his flying career with Bomber Command. As an 19-year-old Colin notched up 34 Lancaster operations between May and December that year.
In January 1944 he started special duties in France as Flight Engineer (Special Operations Executive) with another squadron flying Stirling bombers out of Tuddenham, a former RAF station near RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk. By the end of the war Colin had risen through the ranks to Flight Lieutenant.
The bombers were heavy with fuel (14 petrol tanks) and flew at night in good moonlight weather crossing France at 500 ft to south of Bordeaux then Lyons, near the Swiss border. Their mission was to parachute-drop supplies to French Resistance units delivering food, wireless equipment and weapons. The supplies which were stored at the back of the aircraft, were pushed out of the rear bomb doors when a circle of lights from the French Resistance on the ground signalled their position.
The return journey involved a climb to 8,000ft to evade Eboats and German gunners.
Colin modestly described their successful missions as “lucky”. Out of a total of 10 trips, 8 were successful and 2 failed when they couldn’t find the lights on the ground and they were getting short of fuel. On one mission the plane caught fire, Colin used the fire extinguishers to control the fire and when they were empty he had to smother the fire with a blanket.
After the end of the war they learned that the Resistance had used the supplies to significantly disrupt the railway network.
LETTER FROM THE FRENCH AMBASSADOR
Ambassade de France
29 August 2018
Dear Mr Deverel
I have the pleasure of informing you that the President of the Republic has appointed you to the rank of Chevalier in the Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur by decree of 23 July 2018
I offer you my warmest congratulations on this high honour, which recognizes your military engagement and steadfast involvement in the Liberation of France during the Second World War.
As we contemplate this Europe of peace, we must never forget the 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.
I am happy to enclose your insignia and once again extend to you my heartfelt congratulations.
Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM) "a military decoration awarded to personnel of the Royal Air Force and other British Armed Forces, and formerly to personnel of other Commonwealth countries, below commissioned rank, for "exceptional valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy"" Reference Wikipedia