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

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

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 Scott in the Map room of Southwick house.

Marie Scott in the Map room of Southwick house.

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. 

'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. 

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

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

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. 

‘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’.

Southwick House, Southwick'Picture: Habibur Rahman

Southwick House, Southwick'Picture: Habibur Rahman

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. 

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.

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

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

'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.'

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.'