the household of veteran Léon Gautier says cease the memorial enterprise | EUROtoday

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

The descendants of Léon Gautier, the final consultant of the Kieffer commando who died final yr, have determined to name on a lawyer to keep away from any abusive and business use of his picture. As the eightieth anniversary of the Landing approaches, requests are multiplying, and plenty of of them are primarily motivated by the lure of acquire.

His smiling and mischievous face was acquainted to the French. Until his demise in July 2023, Léon Gautier had grow to be the incarnation of the final French veterans of the Second World War. A nationwide tribute ceremony chaired by Emmanuel Macron was even devoted to him because the final fighter of the Kieffer commando, the one French battalion to have participated, on June 6, 1944, within the Normandy landings.

This extraordinary journey and this now-known title are actually arousing need, as France Bleu reveals. Less than a yr after his disappearance, his household needed to take measures to guard his picture. “We hired a lawyer specializing in personality protection,” his grandson Gérard Wille explains to France 24. “Everything accelerated after the publication of false biographies dedicated to my grandfather with elements that were completely incoherent and unverified. And all of this distributed without the authorization of the family.”

Green Berets (special forces) of the French Navy stand near the coffin of Léon Gautier, during a ceremony on the beach of Ouistreham, Normandy, July 7, 2023.
Green Berets (particular forces) of the French Navy stand close to the coffin of Léon Gautier, throughout a ceremony on the seaside of Ouistreham, Normandy, July 7, 2023. AFP – PASCAL ROSSIGNOL

Fake biographies written by synthetic intelligence

Last December, Gérard Wille found with astonishment that two books on the market on Amazon inform the story of his grandfather, however with many inaccuracies. The inexperienced beret of the Kieffer commando is described as a resistance fighter, whereas he was a part of the Free French Forces. The authors evoke his captivity in Germany, whereas Léon Gautier died peacefully on the age of 100, with out ever having been taken prisoner. One of those works was even revealed on July 5, 2023, two days after the demise of the marine. A pace of writing which means that it was written by a man-made intelligence which was not involved with the veracity of the info reported.

“I felt sorry for these people,” describes his grandson. “It's pitiful. I couldn't let this go.” The household managed to have these two works withdrawn from sale, however because the eightieth anniversary of the Landing approached, Gérard Wille acquired different problematic requests: “Some want to make figurines, posters or even tees -shirts with my grandfather's photo. We can imagine that during the commemorations, there will be this kind of thing on sale in public places. I even saw that his signature was selling for 300 euros on the Internet. C “is getting cash and enterprise with the story of our mother and father.”

One of 177 French of the Day J

The story of Léon Gautier certainly has all of the elements to please followers of the Second World War. Nothing predestined this younger Breton for such a trajectory. Born in Rennes on October 27, 1922, he was an apprentice coachbuilder when the conflict broke out in 1939. The younger man felt the pressing have to enlist and with out hesitation joined the navy in February 1940 – on the time, it was of the one part of the armed forces recruiting such younger troopers. A gunner aboard the battleship Courbet, he took half within the protection of Cherbourg by bombing the Carentan street in the course of the German invasion. When the hour of defeat got here, the officers selected to go for England.

Taking refuge in a French sailors' camp in Sheffield, close to Liverpool, he realized on the radio, with a couple of comrades, that General de Gaulle had simply created Free France to proceed the struggle below the French flag. “Of course, I committed,” mentioned the veteran in an interview with France 3 Normandie.

A photo taken in 1942 of the young Léon Gautier, who had decided to join England to continue the fight.
A photograph taken in 1942 of the younger Léon Gautier, who had determined to affix England to proceed the struggle. AFP – –

He then participated within the July 14, 1940 parade in London, within the presence of General de Gaulle and George VI. Later, he was despatched to the Atlantic aboard the Gallois earlier than becoming a member of the twoe battalion of marines on its African journey, to Syria and Lebanon. In the summer season of 1943, he joined, with many members of this unit, Philippe Kieffer's commandos and skilled at Achnacarry., in Scotland. At the tip of May 1944, like his different crusing companions, he was knowledgeable of the key preparations for the Normandy landings.

On June 6, 1944, together with his 176 French brothers in arms of the 1er battalion of Free French marines, he landed with the primary wave of assault on Sword Beach, in Colleville-Montgomery. The mission of the French battalion led by Philippe Kieffer is twofold: to retake the Ouistreham on line casino, remodeled right into a fortress by the Germans, and to affix the troops of the 6e airborne division in Bénouville. Objective achieved: in lower than 4 hours, the French unit freed 1.8 kilometers of seaside.

Léon Gautier ended up by accident injuring his ankle throughout one other keep in England in September 1944, and located himself compelled to go away the commandos. Demobilized after the conflict, he married Dorothy Banks, a British sign corpsman he met throughout the Channel, with whom he had two kids.

It had become a bit of a star”

After a profession as an car skilled, throughout his retirement he devoted himself to recognizing these dedicated to Free France. Of all of the ceremonies, he has steadily grow to be an important character.

The historian Benjamin Massieu, a specialist within the Kieffer commando, is subsequently not shocked by this business restoration: “Already during Léon's lifetime, it was necessary to make a security cordon around him because there were so many people who wanted a photo with him. He had become a bit of a star. Today, some people know that Léon sells.” For the writer of the e-book “Les Français du jour D” (Pierre de Taillac editions), this phenomenon shouldn’t be new, however he notes a rising lack of seriousness round commemorations, even a type of amusement. “Among the re-enactors in particular, there are those who will do it very seriously and those who are there to disguise themselves.”

Read additionallyEnthusiasts deliver D-Day again to life

In 2020, the announcement of a vacationer park challenge devoted to the Landing additionally sparked heated controversy. “We clearly saw that the objectives were above all commercial, even if they tried to pass it off as a beautiful tribute to the heroes. It was financed by an American investment fund which does not do this for the beauty of the gesture, but to recover his stake”, estimates the historian. At the time, Léon Gautier personally opposed this project, declaring himself “outraged” by this “Disneyland on the death of people who gave their lives for France”.

However, his grandson does not see everything negatively. Even if he is now ready to go to court to block any abusive use of his grandfather's image, he also receives interesting offers. “There are requests, for example, for his name to be assigned to promotions in schools or for the military.”

Himself a Green Beret, this officer turned the guardian of the reminiscence of his ancestor, but in addition of all the lads of the Kieffer commando: “It was the dynamic of my grandfather. He needed to transmit what he was previous, the info and the truth. This should not be forgotten, however we should not do something. I’m right here to guard the story of my grandfather, but in addition, with the assistance of different households, these of his 176 brothers in arms.”

Léon Gautier and his grandson Gérard Wille, during the ceremony in tribute to the marine riflemen, June 6, 2019, in Colleville-Montgomery.
Léon Gautier and his grandson Gérard Wille, in the course of the ceremony in tribute to the marine riflemen, June 6, 2019, in Colleville-Montgomery. AFP – DAMIEN MEYER