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French WWII honour for retired Irish priest

Posted on: January 29, 2016 2:55 PM
The French Ambassador to Ireland, Jean–Pierre Thébault, shares a toast with the Revd Canon Robert William Marsden, after the retired priest was made Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur at the French Embassy in Dublin this week.
Photo Credit: RTE News
Related Categories: France, Ireland, war

[ACNS] A former soldier who took part in the D-Day landings and the liberation of Brussels before becoming a priest after World War II has this week received France’s highest military award. The Revd Canon Robert William Marsden was awarded 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 this week.

The Legion of Honour, one of the world’s most widely recognised decorations, was established in 1802 and is the highest decoration in France. It is awarded for excellent civil merit or military conduct.

Canon Marsden, who was born in Dublin in 1924, trained with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. In June 1944, with the Hampshire Regiment, he landed at “Mulberry Harbour” – a temporary port built by the Allies after the capture of Arromanches. He then joined up with the 50th Northumbrian Division and took part in the liberation of Brussels.

He was then sent to Nijmegen in the Netherlands, on the road to the battle of Arnhem; before being sent to reinforce the 7th Armoured Division – the famous “Desert Rats”. He finished the war near the Kiel Canal in the German state of Schleswig– Holstein.

After presenting the award, Ambassador Thébault told RTE News that Canon Marsden 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 that he was “very proud” to have been honoured in this way.

After the War, Canon Marsden served as Curate of St James’ Parish in Dublin, as Deacon from 1950 and Priest from 1951. He served as Port Chaplain in the Missions to Seamen in Dublin Port between 1954 and 1958; and 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.