Pierre Simonet, a soldier decorated by General Charles de Gaulle for his role in the liberation of France during World War Two, died yesterday (November 5) at the age of 99.
His death was announced by the Elysée, which saluted the “hero” who joined the French resistance as an adolescent.
In a statement, President Macron paid tribute to “this man, animated by the breath of freedom, who, beyond risks and borders, was always guided by his immense love of France”.
Remaining liberation heroes both 100-years-old
Two remaining members of the 1,038 soldiers decorated by Charles de Gaulle are still alive: Daniel Cordier and Hubert Germain, both of whom turned 100 this year.
A fourth soldier, Edgard Tupët-Thomet, died on September 9 this year, also aged 100 years old.
‘Hero’ Pierre Simonet joined the resistance aged 19
Born on October 27, 1921, in Hanoi, Vietnam, Mr Simonet later moved to Bordeaux to pursue his studies.
When the leader of the French Vichy government Marshal Pétin made his intention to sign an armistice with German forces clear, Mr Simonet moved to England. There, he joined the French Foreign Legion in 1940, aged 19.
He was a member of the first artillery regiment and participated in campaigns in Syria and Libya, where he fought in the battle of Bir Haikem. He also fought in Tunisia and Italy, before disembarking in Provence to continue fighting in Alsace.
The Elysée said that his campaigns totalled “250 flying hours and 137 war missions that earned him five decorations, including that of Compagnon de la Libération on December 27, 1945”.
After the war Mr Simonet worked in international organisations the UN and the OECD.
President Macron said: “Pierre Simonet was truly a hero. He refused this title, even though he had all the attributes – the courage, the moral strength, the sense of duty."
Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said: “The whole country will remember his courage, his tenacity and his modesty.”
1,038 soldiers honoured as ‘companions’ of French liberation
General Charles de Gaulle created the Order of the Liberation in 1940 to “reward people or military and civil collectives who must be highlighted in the endeavour of the liberation of France and her empire”.
1,038 individuals, including six women, were given the title Compagnon de la Libération (companion of the liberation), along with 18 military units and five communes: Nantes, Grenoble, Paris, the town of Vassieux-en-Vercors, and the l’Île de Sein island.
The last of the “companions” to die will be buried on Mont-Valérien, a hill in a western Paris suburb.
This site was the main location for executions of members of the French resistance and hostages by the German army during World War Two. In 1960, Charles de Gaulle inaugurated a war memorial on the site.