Léon Gautier, the final survivor of the 177 members of the Kieffer Commando, who landed on the seashores of Normandy to assist liberate France on June 6, 1944, died on Monday, July 3 on the age of 100.
Born in Rennes on October 27, 1922, Gautier was working as an apprentice automobile physique maker in the beginning of the Second World Struggle. He joined the navy on the age of 17, in February 1940, and took half in missions to defend the Normand ports of Cherbourg and Carentan, notably as an apprentice gunner on the Courbet. “Again then, we had been younger. We might grown up in households who’d been via ’14-18. I used to be born in 1922,” he stated, towards the tip of his life, explaining the explanations for his enlistment. “Everybody had misplaced somebody. We might discovered to hate the boches [a derogatory term for Germans]. We had been all patriots.”
In June 1940, he set sail for England. Whereas at sea, he discovered via the radio in regards to the existence of France Libre (Free France), primarily based in London. He rushed to affix Common Charles de Gaulle, participating within the July 14 parade within the British capital. Aboard Le Gallois, he carried out missions within the Atlantic Ocean earlier than being assigned to the submarine Surcouf to function in Africa and the Center East.
In 1943, he volunteered to affix the 1st Batallion of Fusiliers Marins Commandos, a unit of the Free French Navy, which might later be referred to as the “Kieffer Commando.” Created in Britain within the spring of 1942, the battalion led by Lieutenant-Commander Philippe Kieffer underwent essentially the most intensive coaching at Achnacarry, in Scotland.
On the coronary heart of the Battle of Normandy
Close to the tip of Could 1944, Gautier was knowledgeable in regards to the preparations for D-Day. On June 6, sporting his inexperienced beret, he took half within the “longest day,” the place some 156,000 males set foot on the shores of Normandy. Operation Overlord, a turning level in World Struggle II, was a titanic navy endeavor on an unprecedented scale. It opened up a second entrance in Europe, lengthy hoped for by Stalin, enabling the Allies to defeat Nazi Germany.
Gautier crossed the English Channel with No. 4 Commando, a unit of the British Military. Together with the opposite 176 members of the Kieffer Commando, he landed at Sword Seashore, close to Colleville-sur-Orne, half-hour earlier than the remainder of the brigade. They had been the one Frenchmen to set foot on the seashores, and to participate within the combating that adopted in Normandy.
Gautier fought throughout the complete Battle of Normandy, for nearly 80 days. Throughout that point, No. 4 Commando suffered greater than 50% casualties. The reminiscence of fallen comrades-in-arms would hang-out Gautier for the remainder of his life. “Typically there are sleepless nights. You generally consider the widows and orphans that the conflict left behind. Perhaps I induced some widows and orphans, I do not know. You do not remorse what you probably did, as a result of it needed to be performed. However you remorse that it occurred,” he stated. As a result of an ankle damage, he didn’t participate within the combating within the Netherlands.
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