'˜Great honour' for Hawick navy veteran

Retired police sergeant Jim Stirling has been awarded a prestigious French military honour for his involvement in minesweeping operations during the D-day landings.

Jim Stirling has been recognised with the French Legion of Honor, for his efforts minesweeping.
Jim Stirling has been recognised with the French Legion of Honor, for his efforts minesweeping.

Jim, who lives in Hawick, received the Legion of Honour award two weeks before Christmas.

He explained: “This is quite an honour and I’m humbled that I was nominated.”

Jim volunteered for Royal Navy service when he was just 17 years old and once his initial training was complete, he volunteered once again, but this time it was for the dangerous task carried out on board the Navy’s minesweeping fleet.

The Legion of Honour, or in full the National Order of the Legion of Honour, is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte on May 19, 1802.

The order is the highest decoration in France and is divided into five degrees of increasing distinction: Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand Officier (Grand Officer) and Grand Croix (Grand Cross).

The order’s motto is “Honneur et Patrie” (“Honour and Fatherland”) and its seat is the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur on the left bank of the River Seine in Paris.

The order has a maximum quota of 75 Grand Cross, 250 Grand Officers, 1,250 Commanders, 10,000 Officers and 113,425 (ordinary) Knights.

As of 2010, the actual membership was 67 Grand Cross, 314 Grand Officers, 3,009 Commanders, 17,032 Officers and 74,384 Knights.

Appointments of veterans of the Second World War, French military personnel involved in the North African Campaign and other foreign French military operations, as well as wounded soldiers, are made independently of the quota.

As well as minesweeping, Jim was also responsible for coding and decoding messages.

He explained: “I was on board a specially-built motor minesweeper and was paid 1/- extra per day danger money. Our ships were 119 feet long and had a crew of 19 on board. We cleared contact, magnetic and acoustic mines. The crew was made up of volunteers and specialists in their field.

“It’s a great honour and I must say it does mean a lot.”