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French 'Australia's friend' mayor dies of Covid-19

A French mayor, dubbed ‘Australia’s best friend’ by the media for his action in keeping links between his small town in the Somme and Australia alive, has died from Covid-19.

Patrick Simon was mayor of Villers-Bretonneux, which was liberated by Australian troops during World War One, and worked hard to maintain the ties.

He died at the age of 64 on Wednesday. He had been in intensive care since March 24.

A mairie worker told Connexion: “He started to be sick at the beginning of home confinement. He was in a coma for weeks. We are all very sad.”

On the facebook page of Villers-Bretonneux, the mairie paid homage to him.

As gatherings are not currently allowed due to the health crisis, a tribute will be paid to him when possible.

Mr Simon worked hard to keep the ties between Australia and his commune alive.

Villers-Bretonneux has a memorial with the names of the 11,000 Australian soldiers who participated in the liberation of the town which is twinned with Robinvale in Australia.

Mr Simon received the honorary Order of Australia medal in 2015.

During the Australian bushfires in January, he organised an online fundraising to help which raised over €22,000.

Australia’s ambassador to France, Brendan Berne, paid homage to Mr Simon on Twitter: “It is with great sadness that I learnt of the passing of Patrick Simon AO, Mayor of Villers-Bretonneux, a great friend of Australia who worked tirelessly to honour the contribution of the ANZACs to France. I offer my condolences on behalf of all Australians to Mrs Simon & family.”

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