Léon Gautier, the last French survivor of the D-Day landings, celebrates his 100th birthday

Léon Gautier, the last French survivor of the D-Day landings, celebrates his 100th birthday

Léon Gautier celebrates his 100th birthday at his home in Ouistreham (Calvados), Thursday 27 October 2022. ©DR/Léon Gautier

Two days before his 100th birthday, which he celebrates on Thursday, October 27, 2022, Leon Gautier received journalists from Freedom Actu.frat his place Ouistreham (Calvados). Always bright, smiling and even joking, Mr. Gautier “is doing well. I am healthy”. The former commando of June 6, 1944 was kind enough to return to him his life according to 10 dates.

October 27, 1922

Léon Gautier is Breton. He was born in Rennes four years after the end of the First World War. He started training as a coach as a teenager. He will work in the automotive industry throughout his civilian life.

February 1940

At 17, Léon Gautier enlisted in the navy. He is mobilized and continues to serve battleship Courbet. After defeating France, the ship joined England at Portsmouth. The same port from which they would embark four years later, on the day before D-Day.

Léon Gautier at 17 in 1940.
Léon Gautier aged 17 in 1940. ©DR Léon Gautier

July 13, 1940

“Near Liverpool, where we were stationed, the English told me of a French general who wanted to continue the fight: De Gaulle, whom no one knew,” Mr. Gautier told us during a previous interview. “I joined the Free French forces on July 13, 1940.” The sailor embarks on ships that escort convoys in the Atlantic between North America and the United Kingdom. He also became a submariner aboard the Surcouf. In 1943 he was volunteer to become a commando and is preparing for training in Scotland.

June 6, 1944

Léon Gautier (21) landed in Colleville-sur-Orne (today Colleville-Montgomery) with 177 Frenchmen from Kieffer’s commando. On June 6, 1944, 10 commando members were killed and about forty were wounded. After neutralizing several bunkers taken from the rear towards Ouistreham Casino, French troops marched towards Pegasus Bridge at Bénouville to secure the capture of this strategic bridge north of Caen. While the commando had to commit four days, Léon Gautier stays for 78 days on this site with your friends.

October 14, 1944

Leon a Dorothy Banks marry in Dover, England. Two daughters are born from their union: Jacqueline and Jeannette. The Frenchman met his future English wife in September 1943. Léon Gautier did not participate in the end of the Kieffer commando campaign in the Netherlands. In August 1944, while on holiday with his fiancée, he jumped from a moving train and injured his ankle.

Liberty Archives June 6, 2021.
Léon Gautier on June 6, 2021 in Ouistreham. ©Liberty Archives

August 20, 1946

On August 20, 1946, Léon Gautier was officially demobilized. He then worked in England, then became an automotive expert, it was in Africa that he devoted himself to his professional activities. He retired in January 1983 a little over 60 years.

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spring 1992

In March-April 1992, Dorothy and Léon bought a house in Ouistreham. “We spent the beginning of my retirement in Beauvais (Oise), then in Brittany. But with all the invitations to D-day ceremonies, my wife told me it would be life is good there. It’s the house that chose us rather than the other way around. It was the only one for sale and we stayed. »

With wife Dorothy
With his wife Dorothy in 2013. ©Archives Liberté

March 26, 2016

Dorothy Gautier dies aged 91. Léon Gautier still lives in their house in Ouistreham with his daughter Jacqueline. The family is rich for “five generations”, calculating, among other things, four great-great-grandchildren.

June 18, 2021

Léon Gautier is promoted by the President to the rank of Grand Officer in the National Order of the Legion of Honor in Mont-Valérien (Hauts-de-Seine). Emmanuel Macron. “From Albert Lebrun (1932-1940), I had to meet all the presidents of the republic,” recalls Léon Gautier, who met General de Gaulle several times. On April 17, 2021, with the death of Hubert Faure, one of his brothers in arms from 1944, he became the last survivor of the Kieffer Commando.

“When I first saw Elizabeth II, she was 14”

Member of the Order of the British Empire, married to an Englishwoman, Léon Gautier met Queen Elizabeth II, who had just died (September 8, 2022, aged 96), several times during the D-Day anniversary celebrations. “I first met her in July 1940. She was 14 years old. She came with her sister Margaret, mother and father, King George VI. The royal family arrived at De Gaulle’s headquarters in London to meet the first recruits from the Free French Forces. »

October 22, 2022

Léon Gautier will celebrate his 100th birthday with his family and loved ones. “We will be home for 24,” appreciates his daughter Jacqueline. “I haven’t ordered a present, but I know I will have one,” smiles Léon Gautier mischievously. The menu is a “surprise,” but Léon “eats everything. I don’t really have a favorite food. I’m not difficult. »

Being 100 years old: “I don’t really realize it,” he explains.

I’m never sick, the medics didn’t make a fortune off me.

Leon Gautier

The D-Day hero concludes his canonical age: “I don’t know how I got this far. »

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