A decorated World War II veteran whose Brisbane home was destroyed by fire has been presented with France’s highest honour from his hospital ward.
Arthur ‘Bob’ Jackson managed to escape his Salisbury house before flames engulfed the building late last month.
His French Legion of Honour medal was damaged in the blaze, which killed his two dogs.
Queensland Honorary French Consul Lady Jane Edwards said the Queensland government collaborated with the French government to replace Mr Jackson’s medal, which he earned after serving in RAF Bomber Command during WWII.
“The [French] President certainly intervened and the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk went to extraordinary lengths to make sure all of this was done quickly,” she said.
“He’s lost so much – his home, his beloved dogs. The Premier realised this is one thing that could be done [and] unusually quickly the French government has arranged for this medal to be available and pinned on Bob today.”
Mr Jackson said he was overwhelmed by all the fuss.
“Bad news travels fast, I think,” he said with a laugh.
Mr Jackson said the medal was a great honour and one he would continue to wear with pride.
“We were able to do our bit to save France – not only France, but humanity,” he said.
“I cherish it as being representative of the little good that’s in the bloody world.
“You’d be surprised – there’s still a number of good people around.”
‘I’d give the lot away to have my pups back’
Mr Jackson said despite losing his home in the fire, he was most devastated by the loss of his dogs.
“I wasn’t worried about the bloody medals, I was worried about my pups,” he said.
“The fire brigade was coming and [the dogs] rushed back and threw themselves on me to protect me – it looked as though I was in trouble and they didn’t leave.
“I’d give the whole bloody lot away to have two pups back.”
Neighbours and the community have raised more than $30,000 to support Mr Jackson, who celebrates his 100th birthday next month.
The veteran said he would donate all the money to charity to feed starving animals.
Mr Jackson was admitted to hospital after suffering minor smoke inhalation.
Greenslopes Private Hospital chief executive Christine Went said Mr Jackson’s condition had been steadily improving and he would likely be discharged in a few days.
“He’s up to giving cheek again and feeling a lot better,” Ms Went said.
“Seeing the Premier today and the consulate has been wonderful for him. You could see his eyes light up just by having the visitors come in … he’s feeling pretty chuffed about it all.”