Barkingside veteran, 97, awarded France’s highest military honour for Second World War bravery
- Credit: Archant
A 97-year-old is to receive France’s highest award for military and civil merits at a prestigious ceremony in central London on Tuesday.
Schera Morris Masters, of Tanners Lane, Barkingside, will receive the rank of Chevalier (Knight) in the Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur from the French ambassador.
The honour, established in 1802 by famed military leader Napoleon Bonaparte, comes 72 years after Mr Masters’ efforts helped liberate France in the Second World War.
“I was very surprised,” said Mr Masters.
“I won’t be the only one, there will be others, but I feel very proud.”
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Mr Masters signed up for duty in June 1939 and was in the first group of men to be conscripted.
The soldier went on to serve in the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), Royal Army Service Corps, Middle East Force, Central Mediterranean Force and British Army of the Rhine.
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“I supplied materials, ammunition, petrol – whatever was needed at the front line, I had to take it up,” Mr Masters told the Recorder.
“We covered every continent, every sea, under the sea and the skies all over the world. That is what the war was like.”
He remembers the action at Dunkirk clearly.
“It was unbelievable,” he said.
“I was getting ready to go into the south of France, supplying troops with whatever I could in France, Belgium, Holland and into Germany.
“I saw firing, machine gunning.
“At the beginning of the war, I was terrified but then got pretty used to it.
“In 1940, I was in the BEF.
“The Germans almost wiped out the British forces, most came out at Dunkirk as best they could but I couldn’t get there.”
At the time large numbers of Belgian, British and French troops were cut off and surrounded by the German army during the Battle of France.
Allied soldiers were evacuated from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk between May and June 1940.
“The group I was with had to go to Saint-Nazaire [western France] those nearest to Dunkirk went there.
“I was told to get out, just get out because of the mass of Germans surrounding us.”
Mr Masters and his wife of 69 years, Josephine, were just friends at the time, and kept in touch by letter throughout the war.
She said: “It was a great relief when the war ended, but there wasn’t a great happiness because so many people were lost.”