I had the privilege to meet Martin Ottolangui in September 1999 during a visit to England.
Martin's son, Michael, was one of the first Ottolangui's that I "discovered" when beginning the search for members of my father's family in May this year . I met Martin when Michael was taking his father home after a weekend with Michael's family.
Although we met for only a brief time, and it was clear that he was not enjoying the best of health, Martin left me with the impression of a man of strength and warmth with an inner quietness and serenity.
He told me that he'd recently fulfilled a dream to return to France earlier this year and with a group of former comrades in arms he had visited the beaches of Normandy in June for the first time to mark the 55th anniversary of the D-Day landings. For him, the return to Normandy reawoke the horror of the D-Day landings, when at the age of 21 he found himself on Juno Beach. Later whilst fighting his way across Europe he was captured at Arnheim, and he had even maintaned contact with some of the German soldiers who had guarded him as a prisoner-of-war.
Martin was raised in the East End of London in the area known as Mile End, starting work at 14 delivering newspapers. Later he went to work with his father Eleazor (Edward Ottolangui) who had a stall selling jellied eels, a singularly English "delicacy".
As a member of the Labour Party since the end of WW2, he was active in local government as housing officer of Newham Council, later becoming leader of Hackney Council in 1961. Martin Ottolangui was Mayor of the London Borough of Hackney in the early 1980's and as a Justice of the Peace, sat as a magistrate in the local courts. From 1981 to 1982, he served as Mayor of Hackney, and was a well respected supporter of the underprivileged, the homeless, immigrant groups and ethnic minorities.
Martin was a widower, his wife Jane had died in January last year. He will be sadly missed by his daughter Sandra, son Michael, and ten grandchildren as well as many others, who like me, were privileged to have made his acquaintance.
Bryan Langley, December 1999.