Legion of Honour

The Legion of Honour is the highest award given by France for outstanding service to the Republic, regardless of the recipient’s social status or nationality.

31 January 2020

Estimates suggest that perhaps a million people have received the Legion of Honour since its inception. Among the recipients are those who risked their lives in the service of France during the Second World War.

Origins of the Award

The Legion of Honour was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 as a way to reward both outstanding military accomplishments and other distinguished service to France.

The original recipients of this prestigious honour were eighteen marshalls, five cardinals and a number of scholars, scientists, writers and composers.

The award was held in such high esteem that it was retained by the French Monarchy after the Restoration of 1816 for fear of a backlash from the tens of thousands of recipients.

The Legion of Honour has endured as the premier order of the French Republic despite many political upheavals in the more than two centuries since its inception. 

Australians on the Western Front 1914–1918

Between March 1916 and November 1918 more than 295,000 Australian members of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) served on the Western Front in France and Belgium, where some 46,000 lost their lives and more than 150,000 were wounded, including those wounded more than once.

Allied Invasion of Normandy 1944

6 June 1944, D-Day, was the day of the Allied invasion of France and the beginning of the liberation of Nazi occupied Western Europe.

While the bulk of Australians at the time were engaged in the South West Pacific against the Japanese, more than 2,500 Australians served on operations off the French coast, in French skies or on French soil, supporting the liberation of the French people.

Eligible veterans to receive the Legion of Honour Award

Since 1998, many Australians who served in both the First and Second World Wars have received the Legion of Honour in recognition of the sacrifices Australian troops.

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 2014, the French Ambassador to Australia invited all eligible Australian veterans to nominate for the Legion of Honour.

Nominations were called from all veterans who served in France in Allied forces or with French forces during operations for the liberation of France in the Second World War.

Veterans who may be eligible

  • Veterans who believe they may be eligible for the Legion of Honour Award can self-nominate, or may be nominated by family or friends.
  • This is a French award, and veterans should contact the Embassy of France in Australia on (02) 6216 0161 or defence [at] ambafrance-au.org for more information.