John (Jack) H. Phillips of South Surrey is honoured with an Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur by Consul General of France Jean-Christope Fleury during a ceremony Wednesday in Vancouver.

John (Jack) H. Phillips of South Surrey is honoured with an Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur by Consul General of France Jean-Christope Fleury during a ceremony Wednesday in Vancouver.

South Surrey veteran receives France’s highest honour

South Surrey's John (Jack) H. Phillips has been presented with the Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur

A South Surrey man was among six B.C. veterans bestowed with France’s highest honour this week, during an event marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

The Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur was presented to John (Jack) H. Phillips in Vancouver by Consul General of France Jean-Christophe Fleury on behalf of the president of France, on Wednesday.

“I felt very honoured and very surprised,” Phillips said Friday of the distinction.

June 6 marks 70 years since Allied troops landed along 80 kilometres of beaches in Normandy.

Phillips, 91, remembers he was flying south of the beach head that night, as an intruder pilot with the RCAF 418 Squadron. His target: an airport at the city of Rennes.

“I was doing a patrol time down there, (with) a couple of 500-pound bombs, to try and place them on the airport and hopefully put it out of commission,” he said.

“It was actually pitch dark when I was there, I actually couldn’t see the airport at all. But I made an attack as close to the airport as I could make out.

“As soon as I started my attack, they opened fire on me, so I knew I was on the airport all right. So I just dropped my two 500-pound bombs and got out of there as quickly as I could.”

Phillips said he flew a total of 44 trips with the squadron, and, along with his navigator, was injured in a flight over Denmark one August night.

“It was a rather unfortunate trip, it didn’t work out too well,” he said. “I was about three months in the hospital.”

Not long after that trip, the two pilots were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. According to Veterans Affairs Canada, the cross recognizes “acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy.”

Phillips – now a father of three and grandfather to seven – retired from the RCAF in 1964 with the rank of wing commander. He met his wife, Olga (Sunny), in Montreal, and the two have been married 67 years. They moved to South Surrey from Ottawa in 1984.

In a news release announcing Wednesday’s ceremony at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel, Premier Christy Clark described D-Day as “a foundational moment for an entire generation, and for Canada.”

“We will always be humbled by the tremendous courage, effort and sacrifices these men and women made overseas for us.”

Fleury said, “We are forever grateful to all those Canadian and Allied forces who sacrificed so much in the cause of freedom.”

Despite the passage of time, Phillips has a clear picture of his experiences in the war.

“These things tend to stick out in your memory,” the veteran said.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

White Rock council say closure of the city’s pier, promenade and parking lots are not under consideration at this time, but have approved other COVID-19 options for the waterfront including stepped-up RCMP patrols that are already part of detachment planning. (Aaron Hinks photo)
White Rock pier, promenade, parking lot closures off the table – for now

Council members warn decision subject to future provincial health orders

It remains to be seen how tourism dollars announced this week will help in White Rock. (Sterling Cunningham file photo)
White Rock officials question if tourism relief will come soon enough

For business, budget ‘feels more like a placeholder,’ says chamber head

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
South Surrey, White Rock MLAs call Tuesday’s provincial budget ‘disappointing’

MLAs Stephanie Cadieux and Trevor Halford say residents are getting less for more

Memorial for Travis Selje on 64th Avenue in Cloverdale, west of 176th Street. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Epilepsy-defence driver found not guilty in crash that killed Surrey teen Travis Selje

Accused testified she has no recollection of the crash and believes she had an epileptic seizure that caused the collision

(File photo)
Three young girls followed while walking home from school, Surrey police say

RCMP say suspect took off after girls went into nearby store for help

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Firefighters carry equipment from the scene of Monday’s Willoughby fire. The April 19, 2021 blaze turned the Alexander Square development at the corner of 208th Street and 80th Avenue to rubble. (Rob Wilton/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley Fire: The aftermath of the inferno

The scene remains active as investigators work to determine a cause

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Most Read