Czechs honour 105-year-old British man who rescued hundreds of Jewish children from Holocaust

Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved 669 mostly Jewish children from the Nazis during the Second World War, has been awarded the highest honour of the Czech Republic. He was presented with the Order of the White Lion by Czech president Milos Zeman during a ceremony at Prague Castle.

Sir Nicholas Winton with one of the children he rescued.

Now 105, he was 29 years old when he organised a rescue mission for Czech children, arranging for special trains to take them out of the country before they could be deported to concentration camps. He also organised foster families for them in Britain.

In his speech, he thanked the British people who gave the children homes.

He said: "I want to thank you all for this enormous expression of thanks for something which happened to me nearly 100 years ago – and 100 years is a heck of a long time.

"I am delighted that so many of the children are still about and are here to thank me."

He continued: "I thank the British people for making room for them, to accept them, and of course the enormous help given by so many of the Czechs who were at that time doing what they could to fight the Germans and to try to get the children out."

The operation began after Winton visited refugee camps outside Prague established after the Germans had invaded the Sudetenland. Himself from a German Jewish background, he was aware of the peril they faced and arranged for permits for the children to travel to Britain.

He told Radio 4's Today programme before his visit to Prague: "I knew better than most, and certainly better than the politicians, what was going on in Germany. We had staying with us people who were refugees from Germany at that time. Some who knew they were in danger of their lives."

He lived in relative obscurity for 50 years until his wife found a scrapbook and letters about the events. in 2002 he was reunited with hundreds of those he had saved at a gathering for them and 5,000 descendants of the "Winton children".

Winton's work has long been recognised in the Czech Republic, where there is a campaign for him to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

He was knighted in 2003.