Warrant Officer Clarence Dixon
Unit : 48 Squadron, 46 Group
Awards : Legion d'Honneur.
Clarence Dixon of the Royal Canadian Air Force was assigned to 48 Squadron as part of Flying Officer Loades' crew. With them he flew two sorties to Normandy on the 6th June 1944, and a further two to Arnhem, then as a Pilot Officer, on the 17th and 20th September. The following article was printed in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix on the 20th January 2017.
Shortly before midnight on June 5, 1944, Clarence Dixon and his crew climbed into their Douglas C-47, fired up the big radial engines and took off into the English night - bound for France and war. "We went in about midnight, and we dropped planeloads of paratroopers, and they were supposed to take over a bridge, but we never, ever heard again how they made out," 94-year-old Dixon said of his experience on D-Day. "There was lots of ack-ack (anti-aircraft fire) came up. On the way over, the paratroopers, they were singing and having a great time. Once the ack-ack started coming up, there wasn't a sound. We were very fortunate (not to get hit)."
Almost 73 years later, Dixon was shocked to learn that he had been made a Knight of the French National Order of the Legion of Honour for his service during the invasion of Europe - one of the largest military operations ever staged. "I was a little stunned for a while," Dixon said of the white cross and oak wreath suspended from a red ribbon that arrived at his east side home this week, accompanied by a letter from Nicolas Chapuis, France's ambassador to Canada. "This distinction illustrates the profound gratitude that France would like to express to you … Through you, France remembers the sacrifice of all of your compatriots who came to liberate French soil," the letter states.
Dixon's award is part of a campaign launched by French president Francois Hollande to recognize Canadian veterans who took part in the liberation by honouring them with Frances's highest order, which was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. Since 2014, the French government has identified about 1,100 Canadians as potential recipients, having already awarded the decoration to many according to the French embassy in Ottawa. Dixon's award was made official on Dec. 22.
Dixon's war began in 1940 when he left his family's farm near Lorlie to join the Canadian Air Force, where he spent about two years training to serve as a wireless operator and air gunner aboard the big twin-engined aircraft. After transferring to Britain's Royal Air Force, he spent most of 1943 flying out of Gibraltar, hunting submarines and escorting merchant convoys aboard a Lockheed Hudson. He then returned to England to train aboard C-47s, in preparation for the invasion.
As Allied soldiers established beachheads on D-Day, Dixon flew back into France, towing a glider filled with more troops. He spent the rest of his second tour ferrying wounded soldiers back to England. More than four decades after selling the farm he returned to after leaving the military, Dixon struggles to explain what the decoration means to him, one of a diminishing number of living Second World War veterans. "It brought back memories," was all he would say.
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