26th Jun, 2022

Family remembers father awarded Legion of Honour just weeks after he passed away

John Carlon 12th Nov, 2019 Updated: 12th Nov, 2019

A COVENTRY family has told of their war hero father who died before his sacrifice was recognised, in a ‘bittersweet moment’ on Armistice Day (November 11).

Philip Clarke was appointed to the French Legion d’Honneur on February 7, just weeks after he died.

The former French Ambassador to the UK, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, wrote to Mr Clarke to say: “I offer you my warmest congratulations on this high honour, which recognises your military engagement and steadfast involvement in the Liberation of France during the Second World War.

“As we contemplate this Europe of peace, we must never forget the heroes like you who came from Britain and the Commonwealth to begin the liberation of Europe by liberating France. We owe our freedom and security to your dedication, because you were ready to risk your life.”

The National Order of the Legion of Honour is the highest award bestowed by the French presidency, created by Napoleon Bonaparte as an award for military valour in 1802.

Philip’s daughter, Patricia Varney, said: “My Dad was born in Dublin in 1924, he was one of ten children, which included his three sisters Margaret, Helen and Annie.

“After leaving school in Ireland he joined the RAF in 1943 and was de-mobbed in 1948.

“He fought on D-Day on Sword Beach, with members of the Czech and Polish Airforce. His Tour of Duty took him on service through France, Belgium, Holland and finally Germany.

“After the war was won he had to attend the trials of a number of junior Nazi officers for war crimes.

“He didn’t talk about his experiences a lot, as many veterans didn’t then.

“After the war he emigrated to England with his new bride Christina Kiernan where he enjoyed a happy life with six children, Christina, Theresa, Moira, Patricia, Philip, Dermot and Marian, and they had more than 40 years of marriage before Christina passed away.

“His working career was at the famous car manufacturers in Coventry, Carbodies and Jaguar. Eventually his three sisters followed in his footsteps and also emigrated to England pursuing their chosen careers.

“After the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, the French president awarded Dad a highly valued war medal, but unfortunately he passed away at the end of 2018 and the medal accompanied by the letter arrived just five weeks later.

“Although this is bitter sweet for the family, his only remaining sister Annie, an Ursuline Sister, Sister Mary Martha, treasures the award of the medal.”

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