During the Second World War the Frenchman René Rossey volunteered for a military career, at first in the Free French Forces. In 1943, 17 years old, he joined the famous Kieffer Commando and participated in the Allied landing in Normandy. After the liberation of France his unit continued fighting the Germans and finally succeeded in the liberation of Holland.
When the 16 year old Frenchman René Rossey, born in the French colony of Tunisia, heard the BBC-news on the radio about the Allied campaign in North-Africa against the Nazis, he decided to lie about his age and enlist in the army immediately. He was admitted in the British 8th Army in Tunis. After a few months he was sent to England for further training.
In England, Rossey came into contact with Phillipe Kieffer a French commander who was setting up a special commando unit. Attracted by the character of Kieffer, Rossey applied for this unit. After an extreme harsh selection program he joined Kieffers commando unit as a member of the machine gun section.
In 1944 it was decided that the 177 extremely well trained soldiers of the Kieffer Commando would participate in the invasion of Normandy. On 6 June 1944 Rossey landed in the front line on Sword Beach, at Colleville-sur-Orne. The fighting in Normandy was fierce and few commandos survived the operation without being wounded but René was one of them. Three months after the liberation of France, Rossey set foot on the peninsula of Walcheren for the liberation of Holland, a mission that proved crucial to the Allied victory.
After the war Rossey moved to Tunisia but in 1956 he eventually settled in France. In 2014 he was made an Officer of the French Legion d’honneur, as the youngest volunteer of the Kieffer Commando. Rossey died on 19 May 2016.
The last phase in the battle of the Scheldt was the capture of the island of Walcheren. Walcheren had been incorporated into the German Atlantic Wall and had been heavily fortified during the war. The Allied commanders therefore viewed the capture of Walcheren as the biggest obstacle in the clearing of the Scheldt estuary.
One of its kind in France, the Mémorial de Caen Museum gives the public the keys to understanding the Second World War, from its origins after the First World War to its latest consequences in 1989. It prompts the visitor to ask himself questions about this rapidly fading episode that changed the face of Europe and the world.
While preparing for Operation Overlord, the Allied strategists decided they to build two artificial, pre-fabricated ports in Normandy. These were considered essential for bringing reinforcements and equipment to the Continent. The remains of the port of Arromanches are still visible today as silent witnesses to this bold gamble and stunning technical achievement.
Sword was the code-name for the easternmost of the five landing beaches in Normandy. Reinforced by commandos and supported by specially adapted tanks, the 3rd British Infantry Division landed here. The men were to gather up with the 6th Airborne Division and capture Caen. This last objective was finally achieved a month later on 9 July.
On 6 June 1944, 177 French commandos landed in the first wave on Sword Beach in Colleville. Their objective was to capture the German fortified casino in Ouistreham and to join with troops of the 6th Airborne Division at Benouville. Led by Philippe Kieffer, these were the only French soldiers to land on French soil on D-Day.