Kieffer, Philippe, born 24-10-1899 in Port au Prince, Haiti,
to an Alsatian family, the son of Philippe Kieffer, born 1866 and his wife Marie Cecilia, born Cooke, born 1869.
Philippe Kieffer obtained a diploma at the School of Higher Business Studies and became a bank director in New York City. On 02-09-1939, aged 40, he volunteered for military service. He joined the French Navy,
in which he was a reserve officer, a week later. He served on the battleship Courbet
and at the headquarters of the Northern Fleet during the Battle of Dunkirk. He left for London on 19-06-1940 and joined the Forces Navales Françaises Libres (“Free French Naval Forces”)
on 01-07-1940, the day they were founded. Speaking fluent English, he was asked to serve as a translator and cipher officer. Impressed by the techniques of the new British Commandos, formed in 1940, Kieffer requested authorization to set up an elite French unit on the same model. In May 1941, he obtained authorization from Admiral Emile Muselier
to found the unit of Fusiliers Marins Commandos (“Marine Riflemen Commandos”). Muselier died age 83, on 02-09-1965. They undertook extremely harsh selection and training in Achnacarry, in Scotland, where a number of candidates died. The Commando was part of No 10 Inter Allied Commando. Kieffer was promoted to lieutenant de vaisseau on 01-07-1942. On 19-08-1942, men of the 1st
Company of the 1st
Battalion de Fusiliers Marins Commandos
were engaged during the Dieppe Raid, “Operation Jubilee”. In 1943, the French Commando had grown to two troops, and was regularly used for night raids on the shores of France and the Netherlands during the preparations for the invasion of Normandy. In 1944, the 177 men of the “1st
BFM Commando” were integrated into the British No 4 Commando
under Lieutenant-Colonel Dawson
, Dawson as a result of his wounds, was evacuated from the battlefield on the 6th
June. No 4 Commando was a part of the 1st
Special Service Brigade under Brigadier Simon Christopher Joseph Fraser “Lord Lovat”
. Brigadier Simon Christopher Joseph Fraser, 15th
Lord Lovat and 4th
Baron Lovat, died age 83, on 16-03-1995, in Beauly, Scotland. Since Luxembourg did not have its own units, some Luxembourgish volunteers were incorporated in the “1st
BFM Commando” and took part in the landings and battles of Normandy.
On 06-06-1944, at 0731, the Bérets verts, “Green berets”
landed in Ouistreham, Benouville, Amfreville and Bavant, designated as Sword Beach. Kieffer, recently promoted to capitaine de corvette, led his men personally. The unit suffered 21 killed and 93 wounded; Kieffer himself was almost immediately wounded twice, hit by shrapnel in the leg, but refused evacuation for two days.