D-Day switchboard operator celebrates French Legion d’honneur award with first visit to Southwick House

A 92-year-old D-Day switchboard operator has visited Southwick house to celebrate being awarded the French Legion d’honneur.

Thursday, 11th April 2019, 6:49 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th April 2019, 6:52 pm
Marie Scott in the Map room of Southwick house.

Marie Scott was 17 when she was based at Fort Southwick, working to relay messages from the beaches of Normany to General Eisenhower and Montgomery in Southwick House. The trip is the first time she has seen the wall map that recorded the progress of the invasion - relayed through her radio. 

Marie said: 'The only thing I can still remember clearly of D-Day was that when we received messages you could hear gunfire - loud, loud gunfire.

'Not just individual rifles, but cannon. 

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Marie Scott in the Map room of Southwick house.

'You suddenly thought - my god, this is war, men are dying.'

The visit was organised by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans, a travel group for veterans, to commemorate the upcoming 75th anniversary of D-Day. 

Speaking about the current political tension between the UK and Europe, Marie said she sees the country as ‘part of Europe’.

She said: 'All of our culture is part of Europe. I would be heartbroken - and I really means this - if we cut ourselves totally adrift from Europe. 

Curator Willie Dick giving a speech in the maproom in Southwick House Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘I would be very sad if that were to happen.'  

Asking for those who died on D-Day to be remembered, Marie hoped people ‘wouldn't be so dismissive of Europe’.

The former VHF radio operator received the French Legion d’honneur, France's highest order of merit for civil and military conduct, in February.

Later in the year, The Taxi Charity will be taking Marie and a group of Second World War veterans to visit the graves of fallen comrades in Normandy. 

Southwick House, Southwick Picture: Habibur Rahman

Marie's daughter, Caroline, who accompanied her on the visit to Southwick House, said her mum has begun to speak more about her experiences after visiting Normandy for the first time three years ago.

She said: 'She didn't go into details when I was growing up.

'The trips have been brilliant socially -  she has spoken to some of the gentleman who were on the beaches on D-Day. 

'But visiting the war graves is always very emotional.'

Veterans Albert Wiltshire, Dick Edser, Fred Lee and Alf Lonsdale in the Map Room of Southwick House Picture: Habibur Rahman

Marie is proud her service has been recognised, but mostly she feels ‘very humbled’. 

She said: 'I see the medal as recognition for the team.'