Ninety-five-year-old Lorne Frame received some special mail from the French Embassy in Ottawa last week.
The Second World War veteran was awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honour from France, the country’s highest order of merit, for his role in the effort to liberate France from Nazi occupation.
“I was surprised and pleased and honoured,” said the former air force pilot on finding out he was being recognized.
Frame, who retired to Victoria in the 1980s, had just turned 20 when the plane he was piloting was shot down over France in the early morning hours of July 5, 1944.
Although the aircraft was in flames within minutes of being hit by the Nazis, Frame doesn’t remember feeling frightened.
“You’re trained to expect things like that. When it happened, it became a matter of containing the aircraft. It was an automatic reaction,” he said.
He and the six others onboard parachuted out of the plane. They landed in a spread-out area.
“I was found the next day by good fortune by the French underground,” Frame said.
He spent seven weeks in hiding, kept safe by an American woman who was part of the French resistance.
Frame said it’s hard to describe the nearly two months he spent concealed in their home.
“The woman who sheltered us — she was an unbelievable woman,” he said. “She was American, but she stayed on in France after Germany invaded and took over. She stayed on to do whatever she could in the way of underground work.”
Frame was joined in the house by two others from his crew and a pilot and navigator whose plane was shot down the same night.
In late August, the area was liberated by American forces, and Frame was free. He came home in October 1944.
It was a relief for his family, who had been left to fear the worst when Frame’s name was put on the missing list for months.
Others in his crew were not as lucky. Three became prisoners of war, including one who spent seven months in a Nazi concentration camp.
“He never got over the experience,” he said. It was by chance that Frame avoided that fate. “We were all faced with that possibility.”
The other two prisoners of war weren’t freed until September 1945.
The seven crew members kept in touch after the war, but Frame is the lone survivor today.
Although he spent his teen years growing up in Ottawa dreaming of joining the air force and learning to fly, he never flew a plane again after coming home from the war.
“I guess I’d had enough of flying by that time,” he said.
Instead, he went to university and became a reporter and then a magazine editor.
Frame plans to add his new medal to his collection from his service in the Second World War.
More than 1,000 Canadian veterans of the Second World War have received the National Order of the Legion of Honour.
The French government has been awarding the medal to all veterans of allied forces who helped to liberate the country.