As he approached the microphone Kenneth James Burt wanted to make something perfectly clear.
“They have given me The Ode to read in this programme,” Mr Burt said.
“I know the words, but sometimes my 92-year-old mind can get a bit muddled up.”
Ken then stepped a little closer to the microphone as the room of one hundred or so residents at the Bethanie Nursing Home in Joondanna fell silent.
Recited word perfectly and with a rolling pace appropriate for the poem, Ken kept his eyes closed as he spoke.
Just ten minutes earlier Ken received the National Order of the Legion of Honour (French: Ordre national de la Légion d’Honneur), the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits, established in 1802 by Napoléon Bonaparte.
The medal was presented to him by RSLWA representative Gavin Briggs, a Reserve Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force.
RSLWA was delighted to receive an invitation from Bethanie to make the presentation.
Mr Burt was called up to defend his country when he was only 18 years of age. He joined the Marines and ended up at Normandy where he assisted his regiment as and when required and therefore also became entitled to receive the Chevalier De La Legion D’Honneur.
He was at Normandy on D-Day working as a ferryman, taking troops back and forth from the transport ships.
His memory of that day was horrible – as the landing craft touched the sand, there were many bodies floating in the surf.
The Germans were heavy machine gunning the beach and there was mortar fire everywhere. He became a stretcher-bearer picking up the wounded.
As a Royal Marine Commando, Ken fought with the Allied Forces that captured Caen. He later fought in the hard slog of the North-West European campaign in an infantry role and served with the Allied Forces which retook Belgium.
Today, Ken still builds warship models, having to start from scratch as every single piece needs to be painted before it’s glued together.
Friends and family often receive his models as gifts as he doesn’t have enough space to display every warship. Ken’s memory is first rate, he can easily explain the make and model of each ship, how and when it operated and can answer very patiently any other questions that are asked of him.
RSLWA and Bethanie Lifestyle Village congratulate Mr Burt on his significant award and service to his country.
- Royceton Hardey