Léon Gautier, last survivor Kieffer commando dies (100)
Léon Gautier was the last survivor of the 177 French who landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944.
"To you, to your brothers in arms with whom you landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, 79 years ago, to liberate France, our eternal gratitude". This is how Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Léon Gautier, on June 6, on the occasion of the 79th anniversary of the landing. Last survivor of the Kieffer commando, the only French battalion of D-Day,
Léon Gautier, who died at the age of 100, on Monday July 3, 2023, had participated in the ceremony to greet the succession of the commando. In particular, he presented the green beret to the 21 newly selected members of the unit.
Born in Rennes on October 27, 1922, Léon Gautier joined the Navy in February 1940. He embarked on the Courbet and took part in the defense of Cherbourg in June of the same year. After the fall of the city, he goes to England. Arriving there, he learns that a certain General de Gaulle is trying to form an army of volunteers to continue the fight. He then decided to join Free France, in London.
Strong physically and mentally, he was selected to join the Kieffer commando in 1943 and became a marine rifleman. On June 5, 1944, he set sail alongside his 176 companions. He sets foot on Sword Beach the next morning, at 7:23 a.m., and fights in particular at Ouistreham. “We had the privilege of disembarking on June 6, and returning home fighting. It’s a privilege,” he explained to the Journal de la Défense in 2014. Léon Gautier then took part in all of the 78 days of the Battle of Normandy.
Preserving the memory
After the war, demobilized, he joined his wife, Dorothy, founded a family and resumed his work as a coachbuilder. After his retirement, he fully assumes his duty to keep the history alive about D-Day and Second World War. He moved to Ouistreham and chaired, among other things, the Amicale des Anciens du commando Kieffer. He will fight to the end for peace, giving multiple conferences and lectures.
Rest in peace Mr. Gautier