Pegasus Bridge veterans vow to liberate museum

As a four-year-old girl, Arlette Gondree welcomed the Allied forces into her family's Normandy cafe, the first building in occupied Europe to be liberated from the Nazis.

Now, 53 years later, she wants them out of the historic site, which has become a shrine for British war veterans.

The Gondree Cafe is home to the Airborne Forces Museum. It commemorates the Allied action at Pegasus Bridge, which inspired the film The Longest Day.

The land adjoining the cafe, on which the museum is built, was awarded by Mrs Gondree's mother to the old soldiers, subject to a 25-year lease.

The lease expires at midnight on 5 June - exactly 53 years after gliders carrying a raiding party led by Major John Howard landed within yards of the bridge.

But Arlette Gondree is unsentimental. "My lawyers and a locksmith will be there at 8am on 6 June and they will have to leave," she warned. "The building is in desperate need of repair and I am fed up with 25 years of bad behaviour."

Mrs Gondree vehemently opposes a proposal to develop the museum into a memorial park - "some kind of Disneyland" as she refers to it.

"I do not want to see commercialisation," she said. "It is the cafe that is the living memorial and the real museum."

The dispute has become a personal battle between Mrs Gondree and Raymond Triboulet, the 91-year-old president of the Comite du Debarquement (the Normandy Landings Committee), which runs the museum. Veterans have rallied the support of the nine surrounding communities and Mr Triboulet is planning an operation to liberate the cafe and museum from Mrs Gondree.

"With the collaboration of the English, we are going to do everything so that the landlord, Madame Gondree, is turned out," he said. "It is the only solution to maintain the museum and its collection."

The museum is also preparing for the worst and has made plans to remove all the exhibits and store them with the local mayor.

Wally Parr, who was a corporal on the wartime raid, and is now United Kingdom president of the Safeguard Pegasus Bridge Association, said he was confident that, with the support of the local communities, the museum would be saved and the memorial park constructed.

"Things are now looking good and there is no opposition from anywhere except Mme Gondree," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Support Engineer

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Support Engi...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence