World War 2 Veteran awarded Legion D'Honneur

25 January 2021

Stanley Booker, 98, has been awarded the Legion D’Honneur - France's highest military award - which recognises his military engagement and steadfast involvement in the Liberation of France during the Second World War.

Sqn.Ldr Stanley Booker MBE RAF (Rtd) was born in Gillingham, Kent, and joined the RAF as an apprentice at the age of 17. He trained as an Observer in Wales and then joined No. 10 Squadron as a Navigator flying Halifax Bombers.

On the night of 3rd June 1944, his Halifax was shot down and crashed near Dreux, in France. His pilot and wireless operator were killed with the other members of the crew escaping by parachute, eventually finding refuge with the French resistance.

Unfortunately, Stanley was betrayed to the Gestapo by a traitor. He was captured by the Gestapo and sustained many brutal interrogations, before being sent to Fresnes prison near Paris, all the time being denied Prisoner of War status.

On 15th August, five days before the liberation of Paris, the inmates at Fresnes were transported to the notorious Buchenwald Camp. Eventually, the Luftwaffe obtained their release and the surviving airmen were transferred to Stalag Luft 3 in Poland.

After a few weeks, the prisoners were turned out and had to make a three-week march back into Germany. They arrived at Luckenwalde POW camp near Berlin until they were liberated by the Red Army in May 1945.

His harrowing experience led to a lifelong campaign for recognition of the Allied Airmen and SOE agents who were tortured and incarcerated in the camps. In 1946, Stanley travelled to France in search of the graves of his pilot and wireless operator, and to say thank you to the members of the French Resistance who protected him.

After the war ended, Stanley continued career 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, Stanley 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 awarded an MBE by the Queen for his work in the British Intelligence.

He was appointed the rank of Chevalier in the Ordre national de la Légion d’Honneur by decree of 21st December 2020.

Barry Dickens (Air Commodore Ret’d), Chairman of SSAFA Berkshire, said: “Squadron Leader Booker was a Bomber Command navigator in World War 2. He was shot down over occupied France, captured and eventually ended up in a concentration camp. Thanks to Luftwaffe intervention he was released into their charge and finally came home in 1945. 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.”

Last year, Stanley shared his story with SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity to remember 75 years since VE Day and hopes to release an autobiography titled 'Surviving Buchenwald', with proceeds going to SSAFA.

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