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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 June, 2004, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
D-Day sparks a 60-year marriage
Leon and Dorothy Gautier
They met by chance at Commando HQ
D-Day presented Dorothy Banks, 79, with a husband, Leon Gautier, who was one of the 177 Frenchmen in 4 Commando first to land on Sword beach, Ouistreham. It also gave her a new life in France.

I often think about how the war brought us together. I just fell in love with him and still love him, 60 years later.

I'm very lucky to have him, he's looked after me so well.

In 1942, I got hit by a shell which gave me a compound fracture of the skull and they put a plate in.

It paralysed my right side for periods until 1952.

I still can't use my right hand properly and I suffer from headaches which sometimes wake me up in the night.

When we met I was a telephone engineer in Dover working on the commando headquarters. It was September 1943.

In my head I knew he would come back
He had just done his commando training for D-Day and we met when he caught me trying to get into the building. We talked and he told me he had not been home for four years.

We met up that evening and because of the work I did, I was allowed to travel and see him for weekends.

The last time I saw him before D-Day, we were at the station and I watched him go, thinking the next time it would be all over.

The night before the landings, I took mummy to the cinema and in the morning I listened to the radio and heard they had landed.

I didn't hear from him for three weeks and I didn't want to go out.

Nerves

In my head I knew he would come back. I told him and his friend Paul they would and they did.

I got a letter from him and he came back in September.

Dorothy and Leon Gautier
Still in love after 60 years
We married in October in a church in Dover and tried to settle first in France.

I said to him 'When I married you, I married your country as well.'

I wasn't nervous leaving mummy but I was nervous when I got to the station and his whole family were waiting for us.

His father said 'I have three daughters now.'

But we couldn't find anywhere to live and returned to England for seven years, where Leon worked as a panel beater.

Multi-lingual

Then his work took us to Africa for seven years and when we got back we returned to France.

In 1992, we moved to Ouistreham because Leon was spending so much time there, as secretary of the veterans' association.

I realise if I didn't have my husband to look after me, I wouldn't be able to enjoy life at all
I'm very happy here and only go back to the UK to see my brother. I always bring tea bags back to France with me.

We speak English and French at home.

My daughter said to me 'You start speaking in French and finish in English.'

Leon and I will have our 60th wedding anniversary in October. We didn't think we'd ever get this far, with me not being well.

But I could have died and (the metal plate) has made me enjoy life more and I realise if I didn't have my husband to look after me, I wouldn't be able to enjoy life at all.




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