A 98-year-old RAF veteran has been awarded the Legion D’Honneur for his involvement in the liberation of France during the Second World War.
Former squadron leader Stanley Booker, from Bracknell, Berkshire – who survived capture and interrogation by the Germans, was appointed to the rank of Chevalier in France’s highest order of merit last month.
According to the SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, the award recognises the veteran’s “military engagement” and “steadfast involvement” in France’s liberation.
Born in Gillingham, Kent, he was aged just 17 when he signed up for the RAF as an apprentice.
He trained as an observer in Wales before joining 10 Squadron as a navigator flying on Halifax bomber aircraft.
On June 3 1944, Mr Booker’s plane was shot down in flames and crashed near Dreux in northern France.
The aircraft’s pilot and wireless operator were killed, while other crew members escaped by parachute and went on to find refuge with the French resistance.
SSAFA said Mr Booker was hidden by members of the resistance, but betrayed to the German Gestapo by a Belgian “traitor”.
Mr Booker was captured and put through “brutal” interrogations by the SS and Gestapo and interned at Fresnes prison to the south of Paris, where he was denied prisoner of war status.
On August 15, five days before the liberation of the French capital by allied forces, Fresnes inmates were taken to Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany.
The German Luftwaffe eventually secured the release of the surviving airmen, who were transferred to Stalag Luft 3 camp in Poland.
A few weeks later, the prisoners were forced on a three-week march back to Germany.
They were held at Luckenwalde prisoner of war camp near Berlin until being liberated at the end of May 1945.
SSAFA said Mr Booker’s “harrowing” war-time experiences lead him to campaign for the recognition of allied airmen and Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents were were incarcerated and tortured in camps.
In 1946, he returned to France to search for the graves of the pilot and wireless operator killed in his plane’s crash, and to thank the members of the French resistance who protected him.
Following the war’s end, Mr Booker remained in the RAF and in 1948 joined 206 Squadron at Lyneham and flew on the Berlin Air Lift to deliver food and essential supplies to the German population.
In 1951, he was recruited to work for British intelligence in Hamburg and Berlin and undertook secret intelligence gathering of Soviet activities during the Cold War.
He was later made an MBE by the Queen for his work in British intelligence.
Barry Dickens, chairman of SSAFA Berkshire, said of Mr Booker: “He packed more into the first 20 or so years of his life than most would in their whole lifetime.
“Modest and unassuming his survival after bailing out of his stricken aircraft is a testimony to his courage, fortitude, and strength of character.
“Stanley has the greatest respect for the work that SSAFA do. He has made few calls on SSAFA but knows the charity is there for him if needed.
“His award of becoming a Chevalier in the Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur is richly deserved.”