Last Saturday and Sunday there was a small exhibition called 'Expo '44' in the old salle de fete about the events of July 1944. We went to have a look.
Summer 1944 saw an allied offensive called Operation Dragoon [originally called Anvil] move up from the south of France. Originally, it was to coincide with the Normandy landings in the north, however, it was delayed until August '44. In preparation the allies dropped large cannisters with support material behind the German lines for the French Resistance: les maquisards. The idea was they would make good use of the materials: rifles, ammunition, radios etc and intensify their guerilla war behind the lines to disrupt the retreating Germans in the run up, and during, Operation Dragoon.
|a cannister & contents|
The small exhibition was interesting. There had been a real effort to
collate original documents such as Demarcation Line
passes and postcards
from prisoner of war camps which had been donated by local families. There were
photographs of different maquisard groups active in the Charnizay area.
They also had images of the various cannisters, each contained a different mix of items; as well as an example of one which contained a rifle, ammunition and some other bits and pieces. Old flags and other memorabilia were also on show. When we dropped in on Sunday there were quite a few people there: a compliment to the organisers.
|memorial at the lieu dit Péchoire|
In our area there are a number of memorials to resistance fighters--there was never a homogenous Resistance; rather there was more a variation of resistance groups each with it's own "political flavour" and agenda for post war France. What all these small poignant memorials do have in common however, is their general dates. Most, if not all, commemorate captured maquisards executed in mid to late July 1944: those who took action in advance of Operation Dragoon.
|the names of those who were executed|
Not far from us, no more than 4km as the crow flies, is one of these memorials. It stands by the roadside of the D103, in the middle of the Foret de Preuilly, about half way between Azay le Feron and Charnizay at a place called Péchoire. All four maquisards commemorated were executed on the 24th of July 1944. It is well maintained and wreaths are laid each year to remember those who were killed.
|well tended graves at the lieu dit Péchoire|
What is less usual is that the four were also buried where they fell. Each grave is tended and also receives a bouquet on the 24th. To one side of the memorial there is now an information panel explaining which maquisard groups were involved and the events which led to the deaths.
|information panel [click to enlarge & read]|
It is good to know that the young men who fell are commemorated each year on the anniversay of their deaths by the local communities of Azay le Feron and Charnizay.
Hello Niall and Antoinette:
As you say, it is so reassuring that there continue to be people who give their time and effort to remember those who gave their lives that others may live in freedom. The four single graves are such a poignant memorial, so very moving in their simplicity and in the way n which they are tended with such care.
Many years ago now we spent time in Arromanches and found the various war cemeteries of Normandy extremely moving places for quiet reflection. These places are so much needed in this ever busy world in which we live.
A continuation of the same family names on the war memorials...and the families usually still living there helps the continuation of the commemmoration.
There is a Resistance Museum at Thouars (79) and they used to house an archive of every action that took place both during the retreat of 1940 and the end of the occupation in 1944....writing down memories before it was too late.
I used to know one of the founders and it always amused him to compare later claims to be in the Resistance with his archive material...
We have the large resistance memorial close by and the dead are remembered on an annual basis in our area. We have a neighbour who has his own little private museum of WW1 items and he often has exhibitions showing all he has. It is good that the people who gave their lives for the country are remembered. Diane
Another really interesting post Niall and Antoinette. Thanks.
Another poignant example of "lest we forget"
We went to the memorial ceremony on Sunday - very nice, with at least a hundred people attending. The clearing in the forest is beautiful and I go there at least once a year (good wildflowers and insects). These graves are not the only ones. There are more about 1.5km away, but you have to know where they are.One of the things I enjoyed about the ceremony was that typical French thing of mild chaos, where clearly nothing had been rehearsed although there was a plan and someone in charge. Things were rather relaxed but there was no sense of lack of respect, just a sort of acceptance that this is part of life here.
@Jane & Lance - we found the simplicity moving when we first came across them.
Although we have never visited the Normandy beaches we have visited quite a number of the WWI cemeteries along the Somme. Each one is beautifully tended and very moving.
@Fly - just so. The village cemetery the same names appear over and over.
Yes reality of who was in the resistance and who claimed to be are 2 very different things...
@Diane - there is a war memorial in the village graveyard and a commemoration takes place on Remembrance day. The local school children always attend.
@Gaynor - absolutely.
@Susan - How good that about 100 people attended.
The annual Remembrance service here in Charnizay is equally chaotic but heartfelt.
I'm glad they are not forgotten.
Thanks for your comment on my blog. I totally agree about the 'nearly here - lovely view' coverage on the Beeb.
i remenber when i was a kid, it was a place in the forest, not to far away the graves (1 or 2 km), where it was stil lying on the floor old pans, chairs, also old guns and ammunitions,...it was probably the places the maquisard where living.
i tried several times to find that place again, when i am running in the forest but i never succeed.
it was a really touching place, a kind of memorial.
inthe area there is also, the "montgomery field", where the allied forces dropped guns for the maquisards.
@Alexandre - thanks for sharing your personal experiences :-). It is often surprising how long afterwards items can still be found.
I think they mentioned that drop zone at the exhibition.
A fascinating and moving post, Niall and Antoinette. Being in southern Normandy, we are surrounded by similar memorials and annual commemorations. In fact, exactly a week after your 4 young men were executed, 6 more were shot in a quarry in a small commune south-east of us, called Saint-Jean-du-Corail. They too will be commemorated on the anniversary of their deaths and a report and photo will be in the local paper. People here still don't forget either.
@Perpetua - an example of the advantage of local memories being long ones.
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