'English Schindler' who saved hundreds of children from nazis receives Czech Republic's top honour at 105

Czech President Milos Zeman (left) greets Sir Nicholas Winton at Prague Castle after he received the Order of the White Lion on Oct 28, 2014. Sir Nicholas, who saved hundreds of Jewish children in Prague from the Nazis in the run-up to World War II,
Czech President Milos Zeman (left) greets Sir Nicholas Winton at Prague Castle after he received the Order of the White Lion on Oct 28, 2014. Sir Nicholas, who saved hundreds of Jewish children in Prague from the Nazis in the run-up to World War II, was given the Czech Republic's top honour on Tuesday. -- PHOTO: AFP

PRAGUE (AFP) - Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved hundreds of Jewish children in Prague from the Nazis in the run-up to World War II, was given the Czech Republic's top honour on Tuesday.

The 105-year-old Briton of German-Jewish origin said he was "delighted" to be honoured with the Order of the White Lion.

Throughout the ceremony at Prague Castle, Winton sat in a wheelchair opposite seven of the children he had rescued.

"I am ashamed that this is being awarded so late but a Czech proverb says 'Better late than never,'" said President Milos Zeman.

Winton travelled to Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia - which split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993 - as a young employee of the London Stock Exchange.

There he organised trains that transported some 669 children, most of them Jews, to Britain in 1939, saving them from concentration camps and near-certain death.

An additional train was set to leave on Sept 3, 1939, the day Britain declared war on Germany, but the borders were already sealed. None of the 250 children were seen again.

Winton's efforts earned him the nickname "English Schindler" in reference to Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who rescued hundreds of Polish Jews during the war.

He kept quiet about his mission for 50 years until his wife found evidence of it in their attic.

He was knighted in 2003. His Czech supporters have repeatedly petitioned for him to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

At Tuesday's ceremony, Zeman also posthumously bestowed the Order of the White Lion on wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.