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25.11.2019 Europe

French D-Day veteran Jean Morel dies aged 97

AFP/Ludovic Marin
NOV 25, 2019 EUROPE

Jean Morel, one of three remaining members of the 177 French soldiers who participated in the Normandy invasion of 6 June 1944, has passed away at the age of 97, officials said Sunday.

Morel was one of the 177 members of the Free French Forces to take part in the D-Day invasion in Normandy as part of a commando unit known in France as the commandos Kieffer, after commanding officer Philippe Kieffer.

“One of our heroes left us today,” tweeted Geneviève Darrieussecq, Secretary of State to the Minister of Armed Forces.

“We owe him so much. My condolences to his family and those close to him.”

Morel was born in Paris on 27 September 1922. He was training to join the naval forces when the Second World War began and joined the Free French Forces in Britain following France's defeat in 1940.

“I went in order to fight the Germans who had occupied France. I wanted to liberate my country and my family,” Morel told French navy revue Cols Bleus last June in an interview in which he also recounted his memories of D-Day.

“[Kieffer] was looking for men to form a unit, and I volunteered,” he said of his entry in the unit, which trained in Scotland and was integrated into the force that landed on Sword Beach.

“Before leaving the barge, I was asking myself many questions about the day ahead. My feelings were divided between the will to fight and win our freedom, and fear. […] I jumped, I ran to the beach and I saw Kieffer wounded. He told me, 'move quickly!'”

Morel was one of three remaining Kieffer commandos, along with Léon Gautier, 97, and Hubert Faure, 105.