Thursday, February 16, 2012

The French 'Army of the Shadows'

Photographs (Top to bottom):
1. Fishing boat 'Monarch in Whitehaven Harbour.
[Miss Monique Marchais, Resistant, came here in 1946]

2. A young WW2 resistant from Lanvollon, Brittany.
[Miss Monique Marchais at Whitehaven in 1946]
Photograph courtesy of 'The Whitehaven News'

For additional information click on 'Comments' below.


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

(a) A well-known film and novel

Who remembers the 1969 film by Jean-Pierre Melville "L'armée des ombres" ("The Army of the Shadows") with Lino Ventura and Simone Signoret? The film is an adaptation of the novel of Joseph Kessel.

This film is a fictional representation of a French Resistance network during the wartime German Occupation. Of course, the film is a fictional tale. But, within the storyline one can see almost all the elements of what really happened in France during the Occupation, particularly the following:

- A Resistance network
- Gaullists
- Petainists
- The Maquis (resistance fighters)
- Clandestine journeys
- Treachery
- Torture
- Rationing
- The Gestapo (the Nazi secret police).

(b) The real 'Army of the Shadows'

During the war of 1939 - 1945 there was a real 'army of shadows' throughout France. The 'soldiers' of the underground army took great risks. To be sure, we must ask ourselves the question "Why?" Well, the reason was to help escaped Allied soldiers or airmen to evade being captured by the Germans. Many of the 'soldiers' of this secret army were women.

After the 'Appel' (Appeal) made by General Charles de Gaulle over the radio airwaves from London on 18 June (1940), it was the continuation of the struggle for freedom. When the poster proclaiming the 'Appel' was printed, it began with the following quotation from General de Gaulle (which he did not actually use on 18 June):

"France has lost a battle, but France has not lost the war."

Thus, the birth of the resistance was also a way to show that France had not lost the war. The new-born resistance that had sprung up would continue the fight.

Often it was necessary for those in the army of the shadows to welcome Allied soldiers or airmen in their own homes. For most, individuals and families who helped these escaping servicemen, they participated in the Resistance from the beginning. Many of them were betrayed - often by neighbours. To be in the hands of the Gestapo - this was not good! What was the future for a 'resistant' who was in the hands of the Gestapo? One could choose from a list of possibilities: among them the imprisonment, torture, deportation, execution ....!

I believe we should remember and honour those who belonged to the army of the shadows during the war. We should remember the story of their courage and the sacrifices they made for young people who came from a different country. If we look for the truth of the matter, history provides us with many examples of the real heroic deeds of those who were in the 'army of shadows'.

Thursday, 16 February, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(c) The Marchais family of Lanvollon, Brittany, France

In 2012 I came across the story of a French family, the Marchais family of Lanvollon, Cotes d'Armor, Brittany, France. In October 1946 a journalist from the local weekly newspaper for my home area of West Cumberland ("The Whitehaven News") interviewed Miss Monique Marchais, a French 'résistante'. According to Miss Marchais in this interview, following the Dunkirk catastrophe of June 1940, her family had hidden a number of escaping British soldiers for some weeks. Then she had seen to it that the soldiers were able to make their way across the Channel and back to Britain.

The father of Miss Marchais, M. André Marchais, was the postmaster of the village at that time. In 1942, a French woman from a nearby village, reported Mr. Marchais and he was arrested by the Gestapo. Several weeks later, the Gestapo executed him in a German concentration camp.

One soldier who was helped by the Marchais family was an army private who came from my home town of Whitehaven, Cumberland (GB.) Unfortunately we do not know the name of the soldier. In 1946 he decided to remain 'anonymous' so his name was left out of the newspaper article.

Nevertheless, this army private continued to remember and be grateful for the assistance of the Marchais family when he needed friends in the aftermath of Dunkirk in June 1940. So, after the war it came to pass that Miss Monique Marchais, who was 24 years old in October 1946, stayed in Whitehaven at the family home of this anonymous Whitehaven soldier. For Miss Marchais this was also an opportunity for her to learn the English language before she went on to study at a teacher training college in Paris.

One can see that the kindness of the Marchais family had not been forgotten by at least one of those they helped at a time he was in great need. Ultimately, they had saved the life and liberty of this, as yet, unnamed Whitehaven soldier. He was able to return safely to his home and family. One never forgets the friendship and gratitude of a stranger at a time of great danger. A friendship formed in these circumstances lasts until the end of time!

(d) A few personal comments

But the gratitude of a person to another, from one family to another, from one country to another, should not be forgotten. That is partly why I would like to pay tribute to Miss Marchais, her family and the thousands of other men and women from ordinary sea ports, towns and villages who made up the French 'army of the shadows' in the Second World War. No-one who has friends is ever a stranger in a foreign land.

Finally, we must ask ourselves this question: Could we make the same sacrifice today that Marchais family and many others during the war years? I sincerely hope that the answer is "Yes!"

For a 'critique' of "L'Armée des Ombres" / "Army of the Shadows" (in French) click on the following link:
Critique of L'Armée des Ombres

Thursday, 16 February, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(e) In Memoriam (André Marchais)

Dedicated to the memory of:
Mr. André Edouard MARCHAIS (1891 - 1942)
Martyr of the Resistance

(i) Biographical details:

Name: Andrew Edouard MARCHAIS,
Born: May 28 1891, Bordeaux, Gironde, France
Marriage: Married with four children
Patrimonial heritage: Parents lived in Arcachon, Gironde, France
Occupation (1940): Postmaster in Lanvollon, Brittany.

(ii) Military service (1914 - 1918):

War Veteran (1914-1918)
Twice wounded: 2 August 1914 and 13 August 1918.
Awards: Croix de Guerre and Military Medal.
Service (1940 - 1945): 'Resistant', a member of the Georges FRANCE resistance network.

(iii) Conviction details (1942):

Arrest: Arrested by 3 German officers
Date of arrest: 1 July 1942 at 09:30
Place of arrest: Lanvollon Post Office (where he was the Postmaster).
'Trials': Firstly at Fresnes, near Paris. Sentenced to death, then pardoned.
Secondly at the Continental Hotel, rue Boissy d'Anglas, Paris (8th 'arrondisement'), 27 July 1942
Sentenced to death, interned in a cell at Reinbach.
Executed by the Germans near Cologne, Germany, 20 October 1942 (Beheaded by axe)

(iv) Post-war Memorials:

A tablet for Andre MARCHAIS, Lanvollon Post Office, Brittany
Resistance and Deportation Memorial, Place de l'Eglise, Langoat, Brittany
Church Memorial, St Sebastien Church, Plestin-les-Greves, Brittany
District Resistance Memorial, Plestin-les-Greves, Brittany

Click on the following link to see the Lanvollon & district war memorial website, which includes some photographs:

Lanvollon & district war memorial website

Thursday, 16 February, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

This is the link commemorating the wartime victims of Lanvollon and district:

Lanvollon & district war memorial website

For francophones, a French language version of this article has been posted to Cathie Fidler's excellent Blog "Gratitude". This can be found by clicking on the following link:
Hommage à l'armée des ombres

Thursday, 16 February, 2012  

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