France to honour Cranbrook veteran with Legion of Honour

Lee Brown to be presented with highest French order for military and civil merits at August 13 ceremony

  • Aug. 3, 2016 8:00 a.m.
Lee Brown pictured in uniform during his Second World War service.

Lee Brown pictured in uniform during his Second World War service.

Trevor Crawley

A Cranbrook veteran will be honoured by France for his service during the Second World War with a ceremony on Aug. 13 at the Cranbrook branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.

Lee Brown, who was based in England during the Second World War while serving as a tail gunner in a Lancaster bomber, will be named to the National Order of the Legion of Honour — the highest French order for military and civil merits.

The Legion of Honour, originally established by Napoleon Bonaparte, has five degrees of distinction starting with Knight, Officer, Commander, Grand Officer and Grand Cross.

Brown flew 33 missions with the Royal Canadian Air Force in the European theatre, operating mainly in Germany and on the Scandinavian coast. Most bombing missions included manufacturing targets in the Ruhr Valley and naval ships on coastal bases.

Brown enlisted in late 1943 and shipped over to Bournemouth, England, where he was posted with the 626 Squadron One Group, which was under the command of the British military forces.

Brown chose to enlist in the air force after touring the Army and Navy offices; not liking what he saw in the army offices combined with the fact that he’s a self-admitted poor swimmer made the air force an easy choice.

He tried to slip through the screening process while underage, but was caught by recruiters. After being sent home, Brown was recalled and accepted a few months shy of his 18th birthday with his parents approval.

Following his training, he arrived in England in 1944 and was paired up with a bomber crew. A medical condition grounded him for a few days, and his plane was shot down while he was recovering.

He joined another crew and flew with them for the remainder of the war. After Germany surrendered in May 1945, he volunteered to serve in the Pacific theatre, however, Japan surrendered a few months later.

Following his service in the military, Brown returned to his home province of Alberta where he got a job working at the Canadian Pacific Railway and eventually transferred to Cranbrook. He retired in 1986 and currently resides in Joseph Creek Village.