Four French Resistance fighters will receive honorary MBEs, Boris Johnson announced tonight as President Emmanuel Macron becomes the first foreign leader to visit the UK since the coronavirus lockdown.
He arrives in London on Thursday to mark the 80th anniversary of “Gaulle’s Appel” – the famous speech given by Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the Free French Forces, from London in 1940.
He addressed the French people from the city after the fall of France – and declared the war for his homeland was not over.
De Gaulle’s Appeal is widely considered to be the origin of the French Resistance to the German occupation during the Second World War.
Mr Macron is due to attend commemorations at Clarence House with Prince Charles, and will award London the Legion d’Honneur – France’s highest accolade – for its role in sheltering de Gaulle during the conflict.
Mr Johnson said four Frenchmen, Edgard Tupët-Thomé, aged 100, Daniel Bouyjou-Cordier, 99, Hubert Germain also 99, and Pierre Simonet, 98, would be honoured by the UK.
The veterans are being recognised for “services to the United Kingdom in the Second World War”, and they will be presented with their medals in the coming months.
The quartet are the four surviving ‘Compagnons’ of the Order of Liberation and played a significant role in paving the way for the Allies’ rapid advance through France following the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944.
The Prime Minister said: “Eighty years ago Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the French Resistance, arrived in London knowing that the values of freedom, tolerance and democracy that Britain and France shared were under threat.
“He pledged that we would stand together to defend those values and protect our citizens from those bent on destroying us.
“The four men we are honouring today – Pierre, Edgard, Daniel and Hubert – symbolise the enduring depth and strength of the friendship between our two countries.
“They are heroes, and I am immensely proud that as a nation we are paying tribute to their courage and sacrifice in defending us and the whole world from fascism.
“The struggles we face today are different to those we confronted together 80 years ago.
“But I have no doubt that – working side by side – the UK and France will continue to rise to every new challenge and seize every opportunity that lies ahead.”
Following ceremonial events with the Prince of Wales, Mr Macron will head to No10 for talks with the PM.
The leaders will view relics documenting de Gaulle’s time in London and his close partnership with Winston Churchill.
They will also watch a flypast by the Red Arrows and their French equivalent, La Patrouille de France.
Unlike most foreign travellers arriving from abroad, Mr Macron will not have to self-isolate for 14 days after landing in the UK before being allowed out – despite Covid-19 rules.
No10 said the premier and his officials would be spared quarantine because “the French delegation will fall within the exempted category of representatives of a foreign country or territory travelling to undertake business in the UK”.
The clause was among dozens of exemptions outlined in guidance when the regime was announced last month.
Mr Macron needs a boost in France where his presidency has suffered from 18 months of protests and strikes, and the coronavirus pandemic that has killed 29,000 people.