Former Chichester cadet leader receives Legion d’Honneur

ks1500519-2 Chi Len Butt  phot kate'Len Butt who has received the Legion d'Honneur.ks1500519-2 SUS-151013-173925008
ks1500519-2 Chi Len Butt phot kate'Len Butt who has received the Legion d'Honneur.ks1500519-2 SUS-151013-173925008

ONE of the first recipients of a Chichester civic award was thrilled to receive the Legion d’Honneur medal this month for his part in D-Day.

Captain Len Butt, 90, of Churcher Road, Westbourne, has a long association with Chichester, going back to when he led the city’s cadets from 1961 to 1982.

“I’ve got more memories of Chichester than anywhere else,” he said.

“I’m very fond of it. I was flabbergasted when the city council offered me the civil medallion as one of the first recipients.”

Chichester City Council’s civic awards are now an annual event, honouring those who have contributed to the city.

Back in 1986, however, it was a new initiative and Capt Butt said he was thrilled when he received the letter on November 11, 1986, from then mayor John Rankin.

“I think I said on the day when I received it that I was proud to receive it also on behalf of all the cadets who participated in all the events,” he said.

At the time of joining the cadets, there were just seven members and when he left there were around 100.

“I first got involved with Chichester in the 1960s when I took over the cadets and I got more and more involved,” he said.

When Cllr Rankin wrote to Capt Butt in 1986, he said: “The council is deeply conscious of the service you have given to the city through your work with the Army Cadet Force.”

During his time at the helm, Capt Butt helped the cadets raise between £70,000-£80,000 for the Royal British Legion.

A long-standing member of the Chichester City Club, in North Pallant, Capt Butt said members held an informal reception for him last week – with many keen make sure he brought his Legion d’Honneur with him.

“I don’t think they would have let me in if I hadn’t,” he joked. Many of his former cadets are now in their 50s.

He spoke with pride of the cadets’ band, which took part in many parades, including a parade of the Chichester Old Contemptibles in 1971. The cadets later took the first world war veterans back to their headquarters in East Row.

His medal arrived in the post a couple of weeks ago after he wrote to the Ministry of Defence and the French embassy.

However, there was a slight delay after he first wrote to them in April.

“I’m only sad that there was such a mix-up initially,” he said.

He received the medal for his participation at D-Day on June 6, 1944, where he was a ‘sapper’.

His job was to clear mines from the dunes on top of the sea wall at Bernières-sur-Mer.

“The landings at Bernieres had been further delayed by bad weather, starting some 30 minutes late,” wrote Capt Butt in his personal account of D-Day.

“This was to cause a considerable handicap in the beach clearance with the tide racing back in to cover many obstacles before they could finally be cleared.”

Looking back on it now, more than 70 years later, Capt Butt said he felt D-Day would go down as one of the ‘pivotal’ days in world history.

“If it had failed and the war had gone on for another year, with the atom race and the Germans were already on the move – fortunately America was ahead of them – heaven knows how it would have fallen.”

He said the most difficult question he still got asked was ‘what was it like?’ adding a lot of the time there was just a feeling of ‘I mustn’t let my mates down’.

Looking back over his time in the army and his later work in Chichester with the cadets, Capt Butt said: “I’ve been very fortunate. “All right, I give, but I’ve received an awful lot in return.”

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