French mayor remembered as a firm friend

Dr Patrick Simon, AO, the Mayor of Villers-Bretonneux, who died after a seven week battle with coronavirus, will be remembered as a strong advocate of the Franco-Australian relationship.

9 July 2020

Dr Simon, aged 64, had been the town mayor since 2008.

He had enthusiastically continued the tradition of former Mayors of Villers-Bretonneux of holding commemorative activities in the town each year to mark Anzac Day.

Dr Patrick Simon AO.

With his passion and commitment to Australia, he launched a fundraiser after seeing reports of the devastating bushfires across Australia earlier this year. Vetaffairs covered the town’s efforts on page 11 of our last edition.

Dr Simon said at the time: ‘The idea came from my heart. Everyone here was talking about the fires, and we were all appalled.’

By late February Dr Simon had organised for some $37,000 to be collected from the school children and residents of Villers-Bretonneux.

Dr Simon oversaw the renovation of the Franco-Australian First World War museum, and was a strong supporter of the Sir John Monash Centre.

Villers-Bretonneux was liberated from the Germans by Australian troops in the First World War at a cost of up to 1,300 Australian lives. The town’s school was flattened during the battles but rebuilt with donations from Victorians and even now has signs and banners saying: ‘Do Not Forget Australia’.

Dr Simon was awarded an Order of Australia in 2015 in recognition of his continued efforts to strengthen the Franco-Australian relationship at a ceremony for the unveiling of the Sir John Monash Centre in the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery near the Australian National Memorial honouring the service of Australia troops on the Western Front.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said Dr Simon would be greatly missed by Australians who met and worked with him.

‘I thank him for all his work in promoting the Franco Australian shared history, particularly to future generations, and welcoming Australians to the region each year,’ Mr Chester said.