The final surviving French D-Day fighter, Leon Gautier, has died aged 100.
Mr Gautier was a part of a French commando unit alongside different Allied forces within the D-Day landings in Normandy on 6 June 1944 – the most important sea invasion in historical past that finally liberated Western Europe from Nazi management.
Solely a number of males from the 177-strong French battalion escaped demise or damage that day – one among them being Mr Gautier.
In his later years, he would decry warfare as « ugly » and rife with « distress ».
The veteran’s demise was introduced by mayor Roman Bail of Ouistreham, a commune in Normandy the place the Allies landed nearly 80 years in the past and the place the Frenchman spent his ultimate many years.
Mr Gautier had been in hospital for the previous week affected by lung bother, Mr Bail mentioned.
‘Hero of 1944, but in addition the little outdated man everybody knew’
The mayor praised Mr Gautier’s affect as « a father to us, a grandfather to us, an necessary determine of every day life » and « the hero of 1944, the hero of June 6, but in addition the little outdated man that everybody knew ».
Mr Gautier was born in 1922 and joined the navy in 1940. He could be transferred to England later that yr when France fell to Nazi occupation.
On D-Day, Mr Gautier and his fellow troops, beneath the command of Captain Philippe Kieffer, had been among the many first to cost the German-controlled seashores in Normandy.
Mr Gautier recalled how the unit was « on the head of the touchdown » with the British forces letting them go « a couple of metres in entrance ».
He mentioned: « We had been being shot at, however we shot at them too. Once we arrived close to the partitions of the bunkers, we threw grenades in via the slits.
« For us, it was the liberation of France, the return into the household… we had been blissful to return dwelling. »
Mr Gautier injured his ankle, which sidelined him for a lot of the rest of the warfare.
After it ended, he labored within the automotive business constructing automobile our bodies and coaching mechanics, residing in England, Nigeria and Cameroon earlier than returning to his homeland.
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French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted a tribute to the centenarian saying: « The final member of the Kieffer commando who landed along with his 176 French comrades in Normandy on June 6, 1944, hero of the Liberation, Léon Gautier has left us. We cannot overlook him. »
Mr Gautier is survived by many descendants – together with a great-great-grandson, born on 6 June 2017 – precisely 73 years after D-Day.
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