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Cleric & WWII veteran awarded Légion d’Honneur

By editor - 30 January, 2016

91-year-old Canon Robert William Marsden "put his life at risk like tens of thousands of other Irish” French Ambassador said.

Canon Robert Marsden (centre) with his wife Betty and Canon David Gillespie, Vicar of St Ann’s and St Stephen’s. Photo courtesy of Canon Gillespie.

Canon Robert Marsden (centre) with his wife Betty and Canon David Gillespie, Vicar of St Ann’s and St Stephen’s. Photo courtesy of Canon Gillespie.

Courtesy: Church of Ireland

A retired Church of Ireland clergyman was awarded France’s highest decoration this week for his role in World War II.

On Tuesday (January 26) Irish veteran Canon Robert William Marsden was named Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by the French Ambassador to Ireland Jean–Pierre Thébault during a ceremony at the Residence de France in Dublin.

Born in Dublin in 1924, Canon Marsden trained with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

He joined the infantry voluntarily and went on active service in Normandy in 1944.

Robert landed in the Mulberry Harbour as part of the 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, and joined the 50th Northumbrian Division with which he took part in the liberation of Brussels.

The 1st Battalion was then sent on to Nijmegen in the Netherlands, on the road to the battle of Arnhem.

Due to severe losses, the 50th Northumbrian Division was then sent to reinforce the 7th Armoured Division more famously known as the “Desert Rats”.

He finished the war near the Kiel Canal in the German state of Schleswig– Holstein.

Upon his return, Canon Robert Marsden was ordained a Church of Ireland Deacon for St James’ Parish, Dublin, in 1950 and a priest in 1951.

He served as Port Chaplain in the Missions to Seamen in Dublin Port between 1954 and 1958.

He also served as Rector of Parishes in the Clogher Diocese in Currin (Scotshouse), Drum, Clones and Killeevan.

He was made Canon and Precentor of Clogher Cathedral.

He retired in 1994 and now lives in Sandymount with his wife.

Presenting the award, the Ambassador said he was being honoured for exceptional acts of courage. “He put his life at risk like tens of thousands of other Irish,” he said afterwards.

Canon Marsden said he was very proud to have been honoured in this way.

The Legion of Honour is one of the world’s most widely recognised decorations.

Established in 1802 the Order is the highest decoration in France and is awarded for excellent civil merit or military conduct.

Watch RTE News coverage of the ceremony at: www.rte.ie/news/player/2016/0126/20920731-irish-ww2-veteran-receives-frances-legion-of-honour

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