Top French honour for South Downs man

John Bell from Storrington receives the Legion d'Honneur for his service in the Royal Air Force - picture submitted
John Bell from Storrington receives the Legion d'Honneur for his service in the Royal Air Force - picture submitted

A Storrington Royal Air Force war veteran has received France’s highest award, the Legion d’Honneur.

John Bell, who turns 94 tomorrow (March 25), joined the forces in 1944 aged 18 after training as an observer, navigator and bomb aimer in South Africa. From there he joined 619 Squadron at Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, in June 1943 on Lancasters and 617 Squadron in January 1944. He was a bomb aimer in his crew and completed 50 operations in August 1944.

John Bell from Storrington recieves the Legion d'Honneur - picture submitted

John Bell from Storrington recieves the Legion d'Honneur - picture submitted

He was then awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, commissioned and remained in RAF on admin duties and photo intelligence.

On returning, he married his wife Florence and they went on to have one daughter, Susie. The couple have four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Family life did not stop him serving. He worked his way up the ranks to Wing Commander and retired in 1977 having been awarded the MBE in 1070. He was presented with his Legion d’Honneur on Saturday March 12 by the French Consul.

He said: “I am honoured to have receive this award from the President of France in remembrance of the men

“I flew with and for so many who gave their lives in the liberation of the people of Europe.”