At the age of 100, Léon Gautier the last member of a French commando unit who took part in the Normandy invasions during World War Two died.
Léon Gautier was with the Fusiliers Marins Commando, the lone Free French unit to arrive on D-Day on June 6, 1944.
In a later statement, Mr. Gautier described war as a “misery” that “ends with widows and orphans”.
French President Emmanuel Macron called Mr. Gautier and his comrades “heroes of the Liberation”. Mr. Macron told his Twitter followers that they wouldn’t soon forget him.
The local mayor, Romain Bail, referred to Mr. Gautier as “a local hero who everyone knew” and an “ardent defender of freedom.”
Mr. Gautier, who was born in Rennes, in the French region of northwest Brittany, enlisted in the French Navy as a young man just after the start of World War Two because he was too young to serve in the army.
In 1940, Adolf Hitler escaped to Britain before his army seized much of Western Europe, including France.
After relocating to London, Mr. Gautier joined the Free France group, which established an army and exiled government that worked with the Allies to combat Nazi Germany.
He fought in the Congo, Syria, and Lebanon before joining the Marine riflemen known as the Kieffer commandos, who trained in the Scottish Highlands.
During the Battle for Normandy, 177 Free French troops, or more than half of his unit, perished.
The D-Day landings of the Allied forces from the US, UK, and Canada signaled the beginning of an 11-month onslaught. In the end, it assisted in the liberation of occupied Europe and the overthrow of Nazi Germany.
Later in life, Mr. Gautier relocated to the coastal city of Ouistreham in Normandy and began promoting world peace.
He said, “Not all that long ago… I would think perhaps I killed a young lad,” in an interview with the Reuters news agency in 2019 when he was 96 years old.
“Perhaps I made a mother cry, perhaps I made a woman widowed, perhaps I left children orphaned… I didn’t want to do it. I’m not a bad man, no.