It was a double celebration for Steveston D-Day veteran Len Rigg on Tuesday (Dec. 13). First of all, he turned 100. And second, he received the Legion of Honour medal from the Consul General of France, Jean-Christophe Fleury, in a special ceremony surrounded by family and friends at ANAF Unit 284 on No. 1 Road,
“It was a great day. Everything turned out better than I expected,” said Rigg. “It was nice to get the recognition. And to have so many people there, that was special.”
The medal is awarded in recognition of personal involvement in the liberation of France during the Second World War. Rigg’s family applied for the medal about two years ago after learning about a ceremony in Downtown Vancouver by the French and Dutch governments, who were recognizing other veterans who helped liberate their countries.
Rigg, a resident of the Maple Residences, was not yet 28 when he and hordes of other young servicemen were loaded in railway carriages and sent to the south coast of England and a mustering point, where they boarded boats to cross the English Channel and land on the heavily defended beaches of Normandy.
Rigg’s group was headed to Arromanches-les-Bains – code-named Gold Beach — where the occupying German forces were waiting to unleash the full fury of war on them.
The task on that day for Rigg, who was in the British Army’s Corps of Royal Engineers, was to help clear mines so the forces could land and get enough of a foothold to advance and break through the German defences.
Rigg was one of the fortunate ones to survive amid the harrowing losses suffered during the attack and he later made his way across Europe and was among the Allied Forces to take part in a victory parade in Berlin, once the war had ended.
“I am very proud and honoured of my father and to be able to see him turn 100 years of age, as well as being able to see him awarded the Legion of Honor from France,” said Kathleen Walters, one of Rigg’s five children.
“Dad has told me some of his stories from his war years. To have lived through that at 28 years of age and on his 100th birthday have this honour bestowed upon him is a moment in time we will never forget,” added daughter Eileen Campbell.
In 1956, Rigg and his late wife, Kathleen, decided to move their young family to Canada when the cotton industry died down in Lancashire, taking with it much of the associated jobs.
They ended up settling on Yellowknife because he had lined up a job there. But after two months, he headed for the Lower Mainland and settled in Richmond in 1962.