A 94-year-old Tasmanian war veteran has been presented France’s highest military award, the Legion of Honour, in an emotional ceremony in Hobart.
Godfrey Flack flew allied Lancaster bombers over Germany during World War II in more than 40 missions, at a time when it was considered almost impossible to survive so many combat operations.
Many of Mr Flack’s comrades survived only a handful of missions and never returned.
In a moving ceremony at the Hobart Town Hall, the French Ambassador to Australia, Christophe Lecourtier, paid homage to Mr Flack’s service as “an adolescent youth” at 20 years of age.
“That year, 1944, you entered legend, you became a hero,” he told an emotional Mr Flack.
“You were no longer a fighter, you had become a liberator.
“You were no longer merely a man, but a living symbol of our common values, the spirit of resistance, the spirit of liberty, the spirit of mateship.”
Mr Flack fought back tears as he accepted the award.
“We only did what we could, for whatever group we could whatever represent, or acknowledge,” he said.
“I will say thank you very much to all the people who have become my friends, and all the people … I ever knew.”
We will need new men and women, just like this one, to defend our values, to defend our communities, and that’s unfortunately a never-ending story.
French Ambassador to Australia Christophe Lecourtier
After the ceremony, Mr Flack recalled growing up in Queenstown and driving trucks while harbouring a deep desire to join the Air Force.
He did not originally go to school or attend university, but eventually completed his studies at the top of his class.
“We’re so proud … people come back from the war, they have their problems and their families have got to deal with it too,” his son Patrick Flack said.
“But he’s been positive for us.
“He’s done for us what he did in the war, nothing’s ever a drama.
“He just looked after us and made us stand up, and be accountable, same as he did.”
Mr Lecourtier said Mr Flack’s exceptional service was a reminder of the challenges France and Australia would continue to face, particularly in light of the recent Paris terror attacks.
“Today’s ceremony resonates in a way with what’s happening in the world, not only in France, because we see that probably, unfortunately, this century is no less dangerous than the previous one,” Mr Lecourtier said.
“We are still united, because of the values that we share, because this value is our inner way at stake.
“We will need new men and women, just like this one, to defend our values, to defend our communities, and that’s unfortunately a never-ending story.”
Topics: world-war-2, history, veterans, defence-and-national-security, awards-and-prizes, human-interest, defence-forces, hobart-7000