Sunday, May 08, 2011

"So that France might Live"


1. The 'Bataillon Vervet' (Maquis) Monument
Lourdes Cemetery

2. Family Grave of Jean Capdevielle (WW2 'résistant')

3. Memorial of M. René Sarrazin (WW2 'résistant')
[A commander in the 'Franc Pommiès corps in WW2]

For additional information click on 'Comments' below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

The above photographs were taken at the Langelle Cemetery (Cimetière de Langelle), rue de Langelles, Lourdes, France. Below is a brief explanation of the background of these memorials.

1. The 'Bataillon Vervet' (Maquis) monument commemorates those who gave their lives while serving with this battalion between June and August 1944 under Captain Leon Vervet, who at that time would have been 33 years old. In the top left of the memorial is a hunting horn enclosing a 'Croix de Lorraine' in front of the Pyrenees mountains. In the bottom right of the memorial is a representation of the French 'Croix de Guerre' for WW2 service.

A small metal tablet was added at a later date to remember M. Vervet who passed away in 1993: Leon Vervet, 1911 - 1993.

The 10 members of the 'Vervet Battalion' who died between June and August 1944 are listed as follows (surname followed by first name as often seen in France):



DUPONT, Maurice








The citation on the memorial reads as follows:

« Ces maquisards sont morts pour que la France vive à nous de vivre pour que la France ne meure pas »

One possible translation:

"These resistants died for us so that France might live and that France would not die".

2. The family plot for the Capdevielle / Cacha / Casanave / Escartin families has three memorials for WW2 'resistant' Jean Capdevielle executed on 20 June 1944. In addition to the family marble memorial there are two memorials donated by the association of the former Prisoner of War Combatants.

During WW2, and especially during 1944, many 'resistants' were shot by the Germans. Another Jean Capdevielle from the nearby village of Bartrès was killed during the 1914 - 1918 war and is remembered on the Bartrès village war memorial.

Saturday, 18 June, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

3. Memorial for M. René Sarrazin (1915 - 2006) a former Chief in the 'Corps Franc Pommiès' (CFP) during WW2. This is a conspicuous monument because it commemorates the life of one of the important leaders in the CFP during WW2. The memorial records that M. Sarrazin was awarded the following decorations:

(a) the French WW2 'Croix de Guerre' (with two citations and three 'palms');

(b) the French Resistance Medal (awarded 30 March 1945);

(c) the Military Medal (decorated by General de Gaulle at Stuttgart on 19 May 1945;

(d) the French 'Croix du combattant Volontaire de la Résistance' (i.e. the Volunteer Resistance Fighters Cross), awarded 16 November 1955;

(e) a 'Knight of the Legion of Honour' (i.e. 'Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur'), awarded on 10 July 1964;

(f) an Officer of the National Order of Merit (i.e. 'Officier de l'Ordre National du Mérite').

In English, the CFP can be translated as the 'Free Corps of Pommiès' which was a prestigious detachment of the French Resistance formed by General André Pommiès. This corps had many high profile 'successes' during the war years, such as at Tarbes, capital of the High Pyrenees department in which Lourdes is situated, where the CFP sabotaged the Hispano-Suiza (Alstom) factory. This act saved the civilian population being bombed by the Allies to do the same task.

In 1940 General André Pommiès was one of the Frenchmen that refused to accept defeat and was then given the task of secretly mobilising an army in the High and Low Pyrenees, the Landes and the Gers regions.. The CFP had strength in numbers and up to August 1944 used guerrilla tactics to resist the German Occupation of the 'Vichy' zone of southern France, Following the Allied landings in Provence in August 1944 the CFP liberated a number of southern French cities such as Tarbes, Pau and Auch.

As one of the chief commanders of the CFP M. René Sarrazin was highly decorated in the years after the Liberation.

For additional information (in English) about the 'Corps Franc Pommiès' in the High Pyrenees department during WW2:

Click here

Becoming an active member of the French Resistance during the war was not an easy choice to make. There was always the risk of being killed, and if they were captured the 'maquisards' - who were not recognised by the Germans as regular army - did not have the protection of being accorded the status of 'Prisoners of War'. The CFP alone had 387 killed and 156 deported. Their part in WW2 is remembered in France, but is little known in the English speaking world.

Saturday, 18 June, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Not all deportees to the Nazi concentration camps were executed and many did manage to survive. In the years after the war many of the survivors visited Lourdes and some film footage of this has survived. For example, in 1946 two of the stories featured by British Pathé News was about a pilgrimage to Lourdes by ex-prisoners (men and women) of the Nazi concentration camps.

According to the newsreel about 100,000 pilgrims, including 200 priests, visited Lourdes for this 1946 "Pilgrimage of Prisoners". Also according to the newsreel, they had all been ex-prisoners at Buchenwald, Dachau and other Nazi concentration camps. Some of the pilgrims seen in these extracts are wearing 'striped pyjamas' (i.e. their concentration camp 'uniform').

To view short extracts from these British Pathé newsreel stories:

1. "Thy faith hath made thee whole"
(Originally issued 16 September 1946)

British Pathé News, Story 1 (Click here)

2. "Pilgrimage to Lourdes"
(Also issued 1946)

British Pathé News, Story 2 (Click here)

NB: The British Pathé News website has 'free to view' extracts available relating to most of the major events from the WW2 years.

Sunday, 19 June, 2011  

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