French honour veterans during visit to Fremantle

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Gary McHugh (author), CPOIS Damian Pawlenko (photographer), LSIS Lee-Anne Mack (photographer)

Location(s): Fremantle, Western Australia, Rockingham, Western Australia

Australian Second World War veterans, (L-R) George Aylmore, Ronald Milton, and Norm Smith prior to the awarding of the Legion of Honour in a ceremony onboard French Naval Ship (FNS) Guepratte, in Fremantle. (photo: CPOIS Damian Pawlenko)
Australian Second World War veterans, (L-R) George Aylmore, Ronald Milton, and Norm Smith prior to the awarding of the Legion of Honour in a ceremony onboard French Naval Ship (FNS) Guepratte, in Fremantle.

Western Australia recently hosted over 600 French officers and sailors as French Naval Ships Guepratte and Tonnerre paid a six-day visit to Fleet Base West and Fremantle.

La Fayette-class frigate, French Naval Ship (FNS) Guepratte, berthed in Fremantle as part of their annual training cruise. At the same time FNS Guepratte, in consort with Amphibious Assault Helicopter Carrier FNS Tonnerre, berthed at Fleet Base West, Garden Island, WA.

Christophe Lecourtier, the French Ambassador to Australia, delivered a speech in a ceremony on Guepratte, awarding the Legion of Honour to Australian Second World War Veterans, George Aylmore, Ronald Milton, and Norm Smith.

The Legion of Honour is an order of distinction first established by Napoleon Bonaparte in May 1802, which recognises distinguished services for France. The award of such a decoration is decided by the President of the French Republic, subject to a very strict examination. 

The award of the Honour is the subject of a solemn ceremony in which a representative of the French government thanks the recipient for their services to France.

After more than 200 years the award still represents for the French the most solemn and moving way to pay tribute to remarkable men and women, who are citizens of France or of other nations. This was the case for these three remarkable men, recognised by France, whose names will find their way in the Pantheon of those that deserve the utmost respect of the nation.

The crews took part in a number of activities, including a visit to the Western Force rugby team, a sports day at HMAS Stirling, and various sightseeing activities.

Chefs participated in 'The Cooks and Chefs Exchange Program' - with staff from local Rockingham restaurants.

The program provides an opportunity for colleagues to swap jobs and learn from each other and get to experience new, innovative and enlightening ways of cooking. 

Petty Officer Maritime Logistics Chef Submarines Shayne Curby, based at HMAS Stirling, said that the program offered military chefs a chance to both expand their skills and mentor their landlocked contemporaries.

"It was a great opportunity to catch up with some fellow chefs and exchange skills and techniques, all while sharing some great food,” Petty Officer Curby said.

More than a hundred respected Western Australian restaurants, resorts and hotels have participated in the program during its 18-year history.
 
Guepratte
 Commanding Officer, Commander Claire Pothier, the first woman to command a French warship said her crew had thoroughly enjoyed their time in Western Australia.

“French love both fine food and rugby so the highlight of the visit was the chef exchange program and the opportunity to meet the local Western Force players,” Commander Pothier said. 

The ships left the port of Toulon, France, in March 2016 for a five-month operational deployment to the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Indian Ocean and South East Asia.

They will undertake a number of surveillance and intelligence missions during the deployment, as well as taking part in exercises with various international navies.