Highest military honour only took 72 years
IT TOOK the French government a long time to think about things, Harry Anstey said with a chuckle.
But even waiting 72 years did not pale the honour of receiving that country's highest decoration, the French Legion of Honour.
Mr Anstey said he was "over the moon" with the presentation at the memorial garden and cenotaph of the Currumbin RSL Club, where he is a member.
"It's a big honour. It's the highest medal you can receive and they made it very special," he said.
Mr Anstey was in the British Royal Marines and a part of the British forces in the D Day landings at Normandy on June 6, 1944. It was one of the largest amphibious assaults in history and turned the tide in the fight for Europe's liberty from the Nazis.
"There is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest," Currumbin RSL president Ron Workman OAM said in his address.
"Harry, you were there to liberate, not to conquer and so you and your compatriots did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt."
Mr Anstey said although the French decided on the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings to honour veterans who had fought for the country's liberation, it had taken two years for all the protocols to be verified and, as he said philosophically, "I didn't mind, I wasn't going anywhere".
Born in the harbour town of Poole in Dorset, England in 1925, Mr Anstey was 14 when war was declared.
His town was bombed and he worked with the home guard before volunteering for the Royal Marines in 1942.
He doesn't talk much about those months of battle in France, but admits the memories are vivid.
The fact that despite living for many years in England, just a 70-mile ferry trip from those beaches, he never wanted to return, speaks volumes for the experience.
Back in the UK, he completed commando training, earning his Green Beret before travelling to Bombay, India, Singapore, Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong, where he heard that the Americans had dropped a bomb on Japan.
With the war over, he met and married his wife Lucie, back in England.
After Mr Anstey's retirement in 1990, they followed their only son Richard to the Gold Coast, and settled at Elanora.
Mr Anstey said he was more than happy with the decision, not to mention his new medal - his fifth - that he will wear with much pride.