Sunday, September 02, 2012

"He gave his body and soul for France"

Photographs (Top to Bottom): 

1. Grave of Sgt. Pierre Laigle (2nd Armoured Division) 
Killed in action 25.08.1944, Place de la Concorde, Paris.
Interred at Langelle Cemetery, Lourdes.

2. View of Paris from the Eiffel Tower.

3. Arc de Triomphe, Paris.

4. Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. 

For additional information click on 'Comments' below. 


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

He gave his all so that France might be free

Sgt. Pierre Laigle was the tank commander of the 'Montfaucon' in General Leclerc's 2nd Armoured Division. The French 2nd Armoured Division made up part of the force that liberated Paris on 25 August 1944. Liberation Day for Paris - one of the greatest days in the city's long history - would also be the day that Pierre Laigle gave his life, his body and his soul for France.

Pierre Laigle's earthly life ended on the Place de la Concorde, Paris. Not long afterwards the final surrender of the German occupying forces was announced by General Dietrich von Choltitz the German commander of 'Gross Paris'. Sergeant Pierre Laigle gave his all on 25 August 1944 for the Liberation of Paris and ultimately for the whole of France and North West Europe. At the time of his death, Pierre Laigle was 31 years old.

Pierre Laigle's sacrifice is commemorated on two memorial plaques in Paris. One is on the commemorative plaque for the war dead of 1939 - 1945 on the Rue de Rivoli. The second, fittingly, is on the monument commemorating those who died for the Liberation of Paris, Place du 25 août 1944.

Yet, Pierre Laigle's final resting place which can be seen above (Photograph No. 1) is far from Paris. Sergeant Laigle is interred in a family plot in the Langelle Cemetery, Lourdes (65) in the High Pyrenees department of S.W. France.

The French War Graves citation

Below is a translation of the French War Graves citation for Pierre Charles Adolphe Laigle:

Surname: LAIGLE
Forenames: Pierre Charles Adolphe
Date of birth: 19 August 1913
Place of birth: Issoudun
Department where birth took place: INDRE (36)
Unit: 501st Tank Regiment (2nd Armoured Division)
Date of death: 25 August 1944
Place of death: Paris
Department where death took place: SEINE (75)
Cause of death: Killed in action
Status: Military
Reference No: AC-21P-67613

Sunday, 02 September, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Military service during WW2

According to his headstone - and also the French archives - Pierre Laigle took part in the campaign against the Germans during 1939 - 1940. He was taken prisoner by the Germans on 21 June 1940 and sent to Stalag II C near Stettin (in modern-day Poland).

In 1942 Pierre Laigle managed a successful escape from the camp and made his way to neutral Sweden. From there he made his way to London on 13 September 1942 and joined the Free French Forces (FFI) of General Charles de Gaulle. From then, until 25 August 1944 Pierre Laigle participated in all the campaigns of General Leclerc's 2nd Armoured Division.

Pierre Laigle's epitaph on his tombstone ends with the following:
"Il s'est donné corps et âme à la France jusqu'à l'ultime sacrifice".

English translation:
"He gave his body and soul for France and made the ultimate sacrifice".

Pierre Laigle's loss was evidently mourned by his family and friends. An additional memorial stone on his grave reads as follows:
"A mon fils bien-aimé, PIERRE LAIGLE, tombé glorieusement pour la France à Paris, le 25 août 1944".

English translation:
"To my beloved son, PIERRE LAIGLE, who fell gloriously for France at Paris on 25 August 1944".

Yet another memorial stone was placed on the tomb by his comrades:
"Hommage de la Division Leclerc".

English translation:
"In tribute from the Leclerc Division".

Sunday, 02 September, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

"Is Paris burning?"
[Adolf Hitler, 25.08.1944]

On 23 June 1940 Adolf Hitler and his entourage arrived in Paris. This was the day that Hitler stood at the Trocadero site of the Palais de Chaillot with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Either side of him were Albert Speer (architect) and Arno Breker (artist). These were the images that appeared in the cinema newsreels around the world while the stills appeared in the world's press.

A view of the Trocadero, Palais de Chaillot, Paris from the Eiffel Tower can be seen above (Photograph No. 2). Immediately before the German Occupation of Paris the lift of the Eiffel Tower was disabled (i.e. sabotaged).

If Adolf Hitler and his entourage had wanted to ascend the tower and look down upon Paris they would have had to climb the steps - they stayed on the ground. Hence, the Eiffel Tower provided the iconic background image to Hitler's triumphant visit to Paris rather than the place from where the photographs were taken.

With the Allies closing in on the Paris region Hitler ordered that the main Parisian 'sights' should be blown up in the event of the Allies moving on Paris. At about the time that Pierre Laigle gave his life on the Place de la Concorde, in Germany Adolf Hitler asked General Alfred Jodl the following question:
"Brennt Paris?" ("Is Paris burning?").

On the other hand - inevitably - on the day of their arrival in Paris the men of Leclerc's 2nd Armoured Division had different sentiments and feelings of Paris and those who lived there. The definitive account about the Liberation of Paris is the book by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre which takes its title from Adolf Hitler's request to General Jodl, "Is Paris burning?"

Sunday, 02 September, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

"Je t'aime" ("I love you")
[Pierre Laigle, 25.08.1944]

There are some references in the book "Is Paris burning?" about Sergeant Pierre Laigle. With the telephone network in Paris still operational some of Leclerc's men took the opportunity to telephone loved ones who lived in the French capital. Pierre Laigle took this opportunity to telephone his fiancée to say how much he loved her:

"To dozens of these 2nd Armoured men, the telephone they had so magically discovered the day before provided the first link with their families..... Sergeant Pierre Laigle, tank commander of the 'Montfaucon', ran into a bistrot near the Châtelet to call the fiancée he had neither seen nor heard from in four years. Tongue-tied at the sound of her voice, Laigle at first could only speak two syllables, as beautiful as they were banal: 'Je t'aime.' Then he told her where he was and she set off to find him".

Thus it can be seen that when Pierre Laigle lost his life on the Place de la Concorde, his fiancée was seeking him out. After the battle was over Pierre Laigle's fiancée eventually made her way to the Place du Châtelet on the right bank of the Seine. She was too late. The poignant scene is described in "Is Paris burning?":

"Now, in the first soft strokes of twilight, the only angry sound left was the occasional snap of sniper fire. The occupiers' guns had been stilled, but not without their price. Almost 20,000 Germans had been taken prisoner in the past forty-eight hours; 3,200 had been killed and wounded. On this day alone the 2nd Armoured Division had lost 42 killed and 77 wounded. Of civilians, 127 had been killed and 714 wounded. Each of those figures produced its island of sorrow in the waves of happiness sweeping the city. ...

At the Place du Châtelet, an anxious girl summoned by a joyous phone a few hours earlier moved down the line of black and broken tanks, the survivors of the attack on the Meurice. To each she asked the same question: "Do you know my fiancé Pierre Laigle?" None of those exhausted men in black berets had the courage to tell her Pierre had been killed just two hours earlier."

This side of Judgement Day there would be no joyous reunion for Pierre Laigle and his fiancée.

The following day, 26 August 1944 General Charles de Gaulle walked from the Arc de Triomphe (Photograph No. 3 above) down the down the Champs Élysées, crossing the Place de la Concorde to Notre Dame Cathedral (Photograph No. 4 above) where the 'Magnificat' was sung.

After more than four years of occupation Paris was free. But there had been a price to pay. The highest price of all had been the loss of many lives.

Sunday, 02 September, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Further reading

To read other articles by the author of this article about the Liberation of Paris click on the following links:

'The two times I saw Paris'

'The church bells ring out in Paris'

This is the definitive English language version of the book about the Liberation of Paris:

Collins, Larry and Lapierre, Dominique (1965), "Is Paris burning?", Victor Gollanz Ltd., Trowbridge, Wilts., ISBN 0 86220 548 4



This article is dedicated to the memory of Sergeant Pierre Charles Adolphe Laigle and all those who died during the Liberation of Paris, 25 August 1944.


From the 1941 song by Jerome Kern (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (lyrics):

"The last time I saw Paris
Her heart was warm and gay,
I heard the laughter of her heart in every street café".

May it always be so!

Sunday, 02 September, 2012  

Post a Comment

<< Home