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French Resistance Fighters

by johnhpeters

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Archive List > World > France

Contributed by 
johnhpeters
People in story: 
Stella Meiko
Location of story: 
France: Cahors, Concores, Gourdon, Lavercantiere, Auliac
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
A8996638
Contributed on: 
30 January 2006

This is a story of the French Resistance Fighters written by Stella Meiko who in fact is the young English girl who acted as interpreter at the questioning of the two American Parachutists mentioned in the story.

A remarkable woman, now in her 80’s, she still lives in the Chateau de Veyrieres Concores. As a young girl of 19 she joined the Resistance Fighters group at the beginning of the German occupation, the Chateau, situated on the hillside, has a commanding view of the valley through which runs the road from Concores to Gourdon, it was one of her duties to keep the group informed of all German troop movements up and down the valley. Her father Austrian born, had married an English woman, Stella their daughter had been born in England the family moving to France just before the outbreak of war. It was of course very dangerous for her and her mother, if the Germans had had the slightest suspicion they would have been immediately interned in a concentration camp.

Stella is much loved and respected especially by the various English families who now reside in that very beautiful area of France, a great character, she cannot stand fuss who courageously “did her bit” throughout the war.

K.J. Peters
8th Army
214 Bty 57 Wessex Regt. RA. TA.

“DEDICATED TO THOSE WHO DID
THEIR DUTY WITHOUT A FUSS”

A story of the Resistance, amongst others.

6th of June 1944: A memorable date in the heart of the French. “Le debarquement”. Something that we were waiting for with impatience, “H Hour D Day” at last had arrived.

7th of June: The head of the gendarmerie leaves with a full complement. They are all French at heart, not only by words and know were their duties lie. Leaving with cars and motorbikes, they arrive in Durban, near Espedaillar Dot.

The chief decided to come back with two of his staff. They are taken for Germans, everybody was shouting “the Germans are here, hide quickly”.

They stop at a café, not realising that the car they are using was the one supposed to be full of Germans. Once they identify themselves they are warned “don’t go to the gendarmerie the Germans are there”. It is not with the one and only machine gut that they have with them that they could do a lot of damage. As fast as they can they go back to Durban.

8th of June: Round up of three columns in two directions. Gabaudit is the vetting centre. It’s 1800 after a poor meal men are talking and making themselves as comfortable as possible.

Suddenly, German planes are roaring above their heads, at the same time nineteen armoured cars surround the farm. The attack is swift, four to five hundred Resistant fighters are surrounded with no weapons except the police men with their guns and twenty rounds of ammunition.

The armoured cars start firing, the gendarmes counter attack, the ones with no weapons try to escape, others hide under hay stacks, but those German brutes set fire to them. They will burn them alive, 11 men die, the young farmer’s daughter is killed in a field, an armoured car passes over her body.

The outcome: 71 are made prisoners, 17 of which are gendarmes who held out until their last rounds of ammunition. The “boches” made them go in their armoured car and, for 3 days and 3 nights, they are on the road. They arrived in Tulle where they were due to be hanged. Having arrived half an hour late, and as they had already hanged 12 people, the Germans ordered a stop to the hangings which saved the lives of those prisoners.

9th of June: Again at Durban, trying to re-group what’s left here and there from different places. A new leader is chosen to create a new group near the N20 road and also the railway line Paris-Toulouse, a new password and a new meeting place.

The leader will have a codename “Rossignol” the password will be “Martin”, the meetings will be at Souvliac St. Germain and Auliac.

At Auliac, a stay of about a week, a group has been formed. These forty maquisards (name of resistant fighters) have the job of cutting the N20, which is the Paris — Toulouse road and the railway line. The telephone wires under the earth have to be cut very cleverly so that the Germans could not spot the cut.

The expedition was done in a car taken from a collaborator at 2am; the night was very dark with no moon.

The Germans are patrolling up and down the road. Six maquisards are with “Rossignol”. They went across woodlands, and also by very poor roads. The last mileage had to be done on foot. Their weapons, 1 revolver, 2 machine guns, pick axes and shovels. The Germans are very near, it’s a question of being silent and working fast. They had the satisfaction of seeing the Germans being made a fool of. At day break they are back quite happy of having done a good job.

The group of maquisards is getting larger day by day and they are now two hundred. Weapons and ammunition are still very scarce, they are confident and the parachute drops are on their way.

A Scottish commandant and his radio man come to stay in the region, 15 gendarmes are designated to look after them at the Delbreil farm at Lavercantiere.

A few days’ later three R.A.F. planes parachute arms, explosives and also two Canadians. One of them landed badly and hurt his ankle, we had sufficient medical supplies, so he was well looked after.

The drop area was in the “FRAU”, a large barren region well known in the Lot, it was guarded by 200 maquisards. At day break the planes had gone from the sky. Landing lights had disappeared and there were no traces of containers or parachutes. Beware “Messiurs les Boches” the maquisards are armed.

In the Dordogne the Germans also encounter the Maquis, they have had a few disasters by then, and are furious. They make their way towards Gourdon in the Lot. A decision, an order and the bridge of Pont-Carral explodes cutting the road in two. “Pont-Carral” dearly liked by A. Cahuet who wrote a book, and a film was made about this village. Well, the German column will not pass.

The Scottish officer informs us that an armoured division and one of infantry are leaving the south in the direction of Normandy to try to stop the landing of the Allied troops.

The maquisards, losing no time, are destroying the railway lines around Thedirac in sections of different lengths. The cuts are multiple what a night of bangs…

A trap is laid for the “boches” on the N20 around Cahors. Under an aquaduct, sixty kilos of explosives are in place. Two volunteers are required to light the fuse the moment the column passes.

One of those volunteers was Pierre Benestebe who, at several times risked his life for the homeland. Alas, at the Pointe de Grave, going to get a wounded comrade they were both killed on a land mine.

Unaware of what was waiting for them, the German column arrive and they are blown up. It took four hours for them to clear the road and the ones who were left alive carried on.

Obliged to leave Auliac because of the “informers” who today if you listen to them were resistant fighters themselves.

The start of a new group at the Mas de L’Ost, one hundred and ten “Resistants” flanked by older men. They are all comrades of the same country or met as “Resistants” all with the same ideal. This is what is making their strength.

The Canadian officer said “try not to get captured, but use as many traps that you can think of”. One day, two thirds of the company were asked to go to St Denis-Catus to be shown how to blow up enemy trains. They need plastic explosives and weapons. A heavy rain with thunder and lightening did not stop them all getting into a van and off they went.

Arriving at the tunnel of Roquesou where the demonstration is due to be held, they find it is already guarded by maquisards. Explanations are given and everybody agrees except “Rossignol”. He thinks that Lt. Harry’s way is not the best one to blow up armoured cars. He was right. The traps placed by the Lieutenant did not work for the simple reason that the German trains were fitted with mine detectors. Rossignol’s idea was the best one, as he wanted to hide a bomb in the chimney of the tunnel and let it go off when the trains were passing.

Unfortunately, the Germans find a few traps and realise that the Maquis are not far. Now the trains go in two’s following one and other and not waiting long enough before sending the second one. Inevitably the second one catches up with the first and there is a crash. For anyone who wants to open a fruit stall, the fruits are there.

It takes the Germans forty eight hours to clear the railway line. Forty eight hours that stop them going towards Brittany. One of their armoured trains goes up and down the track, the inhabitants are terrified.

A few days later there is a question of blowing up one hundred and fifty railway lines. The Lieutenant entrusts Rossignol to do the job. The Germans, in order to repair one line have to destroy the other one, thereby leaving them with one working line.

The Maquis are starting to harass them on all sides. The Germans leave the Dordogne and make their way towards the Lot. They find the road at Pont-Carral cut. Furious, they take 11 hostages and execute them between the road and a little stream, leaving them there and forbidding anyone to bury them. For a week they lay there under the blazing sun. Who are they? Where are they from? Nobody knows them. The mayor gives the order to cover them with quick lime.

The column changes its route and makes for Gourdon. Poor Gourdon, within its walls the Boches will pass. They will round up the men in the square, twenty two hostages are taken, three days of terror in the town. Then the Germans get their troops together and make their way towards CONCORES. There they take another hostage, and by 7pm near the railway line Paris — Toulouse, after the village of Boissieres, they make the men get out from the vehicle and line them up and shoot them, leaving orders not to touch the bodies. They then continue on their trail of destruction.

The terror, the consternation, desolation and the panic of the villagers, as soon as they hear a car they go and hide, nobody is left around.

The contacts of Rossignol have noticed 200 German cars in the vicinity. An alert is given. A young girl and an Italian one are known at Rampoux as being dangerous if the Boches pass. Rossignol and his second in command Elie jump in their car and make their way to Rampoux and Lavercantiere where they meet the young girls. Explanations are given. Everything is in order and they make their way back by coasting their car to economise on petrol which is a very rare and very precious commodity.

As the car starts gathering speed, a German armoured patrol car suddenly comes out of nowhere and starts to machine gun the back of their car. As soon as they realise what kind of “birds” they have behind them they accelerate, having only one revolver, one machine gun and two grenades with which to defend themselves.

The Germans fire again but the car speeds up and takes the first bend on two wheels and, on the next one, lands on the bonnet. Fortunately by then, the car had reached a forest. The Germans, thinking it could be a trap did not go any further and went off. Rossignol and Elie waste no time to see if the Germans are following, they jump out of their car and make their way back on foot to a different camp to give the alert. Orders are not to try to fight back, not having the necessary ammunition. Also there is the infirmary to evacuate.

The withdrawal is made on foot through woodland, arriving a Les Arques and leaving all the food reserves behind. At this point you should see the speed of some of the farmers who could not go quick enough to grab everything left. To listen to them talk, they are first “Resistants”, but forget to give back the arms and ammunition, the car wheels and the bikes. Amazing how easy it is to lose one’s memory.

The Mas de L’Ortne will never be billeting quarters of that company again. The Cie, Moreau will take over and it is from Les Arques that the ambushes will leave.

The railway line has been broken in several places. All night a few rails are missing. The Germans repair them at a terrific speed and take civilians from different places. A waning is given, “For every track blown up, one person in five will be shot”.

One day under a blazing sun one of the maquisards bring two men who look more like tramps and are not known as being from these parts. They possess French identity cards which indicate that they are “Deaf and Dumb”.

Taken to the camp, they mutter, explaining that they are American airmen caught by the Defense Civile Aerienne, and came down by parachute. Very suspicious, an eye is kept on them. In he mean time an interpreter is needed. Rossignol remembers that at the Chateau de Veyrieres at Conceres Lives a British family with two women who were known to have helped the Resistance from the very beginning when he was the head of the Gendarmerie at St. Germain. The young girl has been called for. When she arrives at the camp, the Americans ask “who is this girl”. The answer was “military agent”. This made her very proud.

After talking for a while, it appears that they are telling the truth. They are AMERICAN PARACHUTISTS. They will stay until the 14th July and participate at the procession of Castelfranc while the Germans are only few kilometres away at Puy-L’Eveque and Fumel.

The speeches are made at the monument for the dead soldiers of past wars. Appeals are made for the young to join the Resistance. Lots of people are crying, “Freedom is near”. Nobody is thinking of how near the German troops are.

While the informers are doing their work, the Germans learn about the processions and demonstrations. The Maquisards are getting very nervous they want to give a final attack. In Cahors the Germans are hardly going out, as they are frightened of the ambushes. Nevertheless, some successful ambushes are made.

A reconnaissance is made towards the hill of Espere by a commanding officer and Rossignol. Explanations of how things have to be done are given to their men.

Thirty men, armed with one machine gun and two automatic rifles, take to the road in single file. The rest of the group are already in position along the road, grenades in their hands. By midnight they are in position.

At 7a.m. a German column with about 30 cars arrives at the point of the ambush. A whistle is blown and the automatic arms start firing. A car with German officers in front of the detachment is sent into a ditch with its occupants. From a second car a German officer comes out holding a revolver and starts shooting in the air. You can hear some swearing, some cries of pain. A young marine whose name was “Tarzan” saw the German officer firing. He has an American rifle. He hesitates. He has never had a German soldier in front of him before. He fires, the officer falls and the young boy is so excited, he shouts to his comrades, “OK boys, I have killed one”, then he kills two more.

In this ambush sixty four were killed, one car thrown into the ditch, five lorries destroyed and one abandoned. This is the result of the ambush. Another blow of the whistle signals our withdrawal.

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