West Hill Old Boy Awarded The French Legion of Honor
16 May 2017
Joe Rodrigues recently got in touch with the news, this is what he had to say:
"I was a pupil at West Hill School from 1930 – 1934 when Mr. George Fletcher was Headmaster. I am now 96 and still very active in community affairs.
You will see from the attached I have been awarded the French Legion of Honour. I feel very honoured.
In 2007 I was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal acknowledging 50 years service to the community.
I have fond memories of West Hill. I remember the names of all the teachers. They were great. I still have my Prefect’s badge.
Wishing you all the best from New Plymouth, New Zealand."
The accompanying letter reads,
"I have the pleasure to inform you that you have been awarded the French Legion of Honor by the President of the French Republic for your actions during the war.
This is part of an important campaign of recognition, launched by the President on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Normandy, to officially recognise those who fought for the liberation of France and her people.
Mr Rodrigues you bravely left your home to take part in this war and our country wishes to honour the bravery you demonstrated with the highest decoration that exists in France, which accopanies this letter."
Mrs Wood replied to Joe and he responded with further details of his contribution to the liberation of France that will provide useful information to the pupils that are currently studying WWII.
Lieutenant J.F.C. (Joe) Rodrigues
In October 1942, Lieutenant Joe Rodrigues, Royal Signals, was posted to 1st Assault Brigade, Royal Engineers Signals Squadron, 79th Armoured Division of the British Army.
His responsibility was to provide the communication systems required by two of the six Squadrons of Assault Engineers in the Brigade.
Thes squadrons were taskked with devising methodsof breaching the defences of the German Atlantic Wall, to enable troops landing on the beaches to advance rapidly into France.
Over the ensuing months a variety of specialised equipment was invented and tested until a range of devices were approved for production. All this work was Top Secret.
On D Day 6th June, 1944, the Assualt Engineers were able to successfully breach the Atlantic Wall defences. By the end of the day 150,000 troops were ashore and had established a strong bridgehead.
After a period of consolidation, the specialised equipment of teh Assault Engineers was deployed, in the months that followed, liberating the ports of Le Harve, Calais and Boulogne.
In 1999 he received a Diploma and Medal from the French Government in recognition of his services to France as a Normandy Veteran.
Joe went on to write:
"As you have pupils studying WW2, I have attached details of my contribution to the liberation of France. I was 23.
At the end you will see that I had already received a Diploma and Medal from the French Government in 1999, in recognition of my services.
To now be awarded the Legion d’Honneur to mark the 70th Anniversary, is the icing on the cake !
As you have pupils studying WW2, they may like to know what happened to me next.
After France was liberated I was posted to the 7th Armoured Division (Desert Rats).
We fought a series of actions to liberate Belgium and Holland.
We were welcomed with great enthusiasm in both countries, being showered with flowers and great hospitality.
Our next campaign was to defeat Germany. We crossed the Rhine on 23rd March,1945 and battled our way across north-west Germany capturing Hamburg on 2 May.
The Germans surrendered unconditionally a few days later and VE Day was declared on 8th May.
Shortly afterwards we were selected to represent Britain in the four-power occupation of Berlin, along with France, Russia and the United States.
I marched in the Victory Parade, which took place in the German capital on 21st July, with Prime Minister Winston Churchill taking the salute."
Victory Parade in Berlin on 21st July 1945, which the Desert Rats took part in.
131st Brigade HQ and Signals Squadron marching towards the saluting dias, during Victory Parade. Leading this detachment is Captain Gordon Pelmore, R.Signals followed by Capt. Wadham and Lieut. J.F.C.(Joe) Rodrigues (centre of picture)
To put a face to a name, here is the photo from Joe’s local paper.
By way of explanation, the cloth badge is that of the Normandy Veterans Association.
The lapel badge, above the Legion of Honour, is the Queen’s Service Medal.
The British Veterans Badge is on the other lapel.