CHAPTER TWELVE

EYEWITNESS

This is the testimony of a French youth who survived those dangerous years, and the passing through the heart of France of the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich.

Monsieur S was twenty years of age when he joined the Maquis. In fact, he became the member of two groups of Resistants, the FTP and the Armée Secrète. On their amalgamation with the ORA they formed the 4th Regiment, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Guingouin. Monsieur S was directly involved in actions against Das Reich. Herewith his testimony.

In his village, everyone was Communist, you were obliged to be so. This did not mean that some were not also Christians: one thing was political, the other was religion. His mother wanted him to become a priest and he now rather regrets that he did not. At the time it was not so clear and his father objected. Indeed, the girls would not kiss him when it became known!

His father died when he was eleven years old and he lived and worked on a farm. He was rather nervous when he went into the Resistance but he could get home from time to time. As the Maquis became armed, their confidence grew. Parachute drops in the area became more frequent and he vividly recalls his first experience. It was at night and very cold. They built small signal fires at different angles and commanded the drop with the aid of an electric lamp. Then, they heard the plane come over. It circled and went away. He thought the drop had been abandoned but was told the pilot was checking the signal code and would return. Then, they heard its engines again and down floated the containers. They had to bury the parachutes quickly and struggle with the containers. The English had thought of everything: arms, ammunition, chocolate, tobacco, clothing, even a camera. He was horrified to find huge quantities of bandages and this rather diminished his enthusiasm for the fighting to come. Then they had to try and eliminate the signs of the fires. The next morning, local people came out and found the embers. They decided that it was sorcellerie, the work of local witches!

Another parachutage involved money, huge quantities of French francs, some of them real, some of them false, they thought. They took some to the Post Office but they wanted to know where the money came from. They hid the money in tombs in the cemetery.

As soon as the young men were armed, they thought they could do anything. The Maquis chief was Georges Guingouin. He was strong and exerted a firm command. He was tough and did some terrible things but without him the situation would have been far worse. There was a lot of indiscipline and other Maquis bands came in, even from as far away as Clermont-Ferrand, and stole everything. Guingouin set a price on food supplies against the black market prices: a maximum of 80F for a kilo of butter, or 4F for a kilo of potatoes. Monsieur S was appalled by the banditry and jealousy. Someone would say that they knew where there was a lot of good wine. Then they would go out and steal it. Jealousy, he said, was the main cause of crimes such as this. Against this, Guingouin would set his regulations but they were not always observed. He was quite merciless when people were found out. He did however manage to maintain order and you always knew where you stood with him. (This is in exact agreement with Major Staunton’s SOE report).

Once armed, the Maquis wanted to attack the enemy but it was not that simple. The Milice was also very active and, in many ways, worse than the Germans. He was deeply shocked to see what Frenchmen would do to Frenchmen: a couple blindfolded, tied to a tree, and then shot. You never knew why.

Two incidents stood out in his memory. First, the famous parachutage of 26 June 1944, when seventy-two Flying Fortresses, supported by RAF fighters, launched 864 containers: he can never forget the overwhelming experience of that day. Second, the arrival, in uniform, of a British officer (he cannot recall his name) who was extremely tall and commanding. He was armed with a sub-machine gun in one hand and a grenade in the other as he landed. S hoped the grenade would not go off! He showed them how to react to the presence of enemy forces and S found this equally frightening! They were not used to obeying orders in such a way. He is not sure what happened to the British officer. He was not very popular and he last saw him in a wood. (Other Resistants have told me that sometimes agents parachuted in were killed by the Maquis which did not want any outside influence. I am not saying this was the case here. S was very low down in the Maquis hierarchy and he makes no claim to knowledge outside his personal experience).

Attacks by the Maquis on German columns in the area were very dangerous. He was witness to one such: the Maquis opened fire from the edge of the road. Immediately, the Germans sprang from their vehicles and, in no time at all, had encircled the Maquis and annihilated them. They were professionals, the Maquis were shot down like rabbits.

Following the night of 5 June 1944, (Plan Vert was announced in Haute-Vienne by the BBC with the message, ‘In the forest there is a great tree’) they were alerted to the arrival of Das Reich. He described his witness of this unit.

The noise of their arrival was terrific. He could see the soldiers, all perfectly disciplined, young and dressed for combat. Guingouin ordered that they should not mine the roads as they were completely surrounded by SS troops and such a move would have been fatal. Furthermore, he explained that with their armoured, caterpillar tracks they could easily swing past any exploded area in the road.

He saw how Das Reich prepared for action against the ‘terrorists’. They set up machine guns and, using explosive bullets, cut down the trees, even oaks as big as six inches across, at the height of a man to give themselves a field of fire. He was in hiding. Then, making his way across a remote area, carrying his revolver, he was astonished to find that enemy units were coming down a muddy farm track, miles from anywhere. They were, in fact, everywhere, combing the countryside for ‘terrorists’. They scanned the countryside with binoculars and were in communication by radio. Milice informers would identify camps and Maquis units. He threw himself to the ground, hid in a ditch and said his prayers: he had no desire to be awarded a posthumous decoration! He was, he said, not very brave, not a real maquisard.

Even after the passage of Das Reich they would send units back to pacify the region. There were many unfortunate events. Erroneously, in his opinion, some Resistants thought that the parish priest had disclosed the whereabouts of two camps. They thought he had a wireless transmitter in his presbytery but in fact it was an ordinary radio, only capable of receiving regular transmissions. The priest used it to listen to the BBC. In the event, he was assassinated.

S is now eighty years old and one of the few remaining Resistants in his area. There are others, but mostly rather unwilling to talk. In the woods around are buried the last big supplies of arms, some of which they buried beside the lakes to avoid discovery since, at the end, they had more than enough. It was his job, with two others, to guard a huge dump of arms and plastic explosive, tons of it. But, he said, what could they do if the Germans arrived?

From here, we set out into the woods to rediscover the arms hidden there for over fifty years. For the visitor today, there is much to discover along the line of march of Das Reich.

The Author with a German Gewehr 98 which has been dug up at the Maquis camp at Aigueperse, where it had lain hidden for fifty-six years along with Sten guns and other weaponry.

‘We feel sure that nothing of which we have any knowledge or record has ever been done by mortal men which surpasses the splendour and daring of their feats of arms.’

WINSTON S CHURCHILL, WESTMINSTER ABBEY, 21 MAY 1948, ON THE WORK OF THE SPECIAL FORCES.

Bibliography

NOTE ON PRINCIPAL SOURCES

GENERAL

ENGLISH

SOE IN FRANCE – An Account of the Work of the British Special Operations Executive in France, 1940 – 1944, M R D Foot, HMSO 1966 (The indispensable authorised history)

THEY FOUGHT ALONE – The Story of British Agents in France, Maurice Buckmaster, Odhams, London, 1958

F SECTION SOE – The Buckmaster Networks, Marcel Ruby, Leo Cooper, London, 1985

INSIDE SOE – The Story of Special Operations in Western Europe 1940 – 1945, E H Cookridge, Arthur Barker, London, 1966

SECRET WAR – The Story of SOE, Britain’s Wartime Sabotage Organisation, Nigel West, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1992

MISSION IMPROBABLE – A Salute to the RAF Women of SOE in France, Beryl Escott, Patrick Stevens, Sparkford, 1991

SABOTAGE & SUBVERSION – Stories from the Files of the SOE and

OSS, Ian Dear, Arms & Armour, London, 1996

UNDERCOVER – Men and Women of the SOE, Patrick Howarth, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1980

CHURCHILL – Roy Jenkins, McMillan, London 2001

BODYGUARD OF LIES – Anthony Cave Brown, W. H. Allen, London 1976

ARCHIVES

FOREIGN & COMMONWEALTH OFFICE, SOE Advisor, Whitehall, London

PUBLIC RECORD OFFICE, Kew, Surrey

IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, Lambeth Road, London

MILTON HALL JEDBURGH ARCHIVES

BBC INFORMATION & ARCHIVES, Broadcasting House, London

NATIONAL ARCHIVES AT COLLEGE PARK, Maryland, USA

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY, Langley, Virginia, USA

FÉDÉRATION NATIONALE FFC LIBRE RÉSISTANCE, Paris

MUSÉE DE L’ORDRE DE LA LIBÉRATION, Paris (Metro: Latour Maubourg)

BRITISH CONSULATE-GENERAL, Bordeaux

COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES COMMISSION, Beaurains

FRENCH

HISTOIRE DE LA RÉSISTANCE, F-G Dreyfus, Fallois, Paris, 1996 (Above sources apply generally throughout the Guide)

CHAPTER 1

ENGLISH

DAS REICH – The March of the 2nd Panzer Division through France June 1944, Max Hastings, Michael Joseph, London, 1981

MOONDROP TO GASCONY, Anne-Marie Walters, Macmillan, London, 1946

PIMENTO: SOE Archives R1, R2, R3, R4, Sheet 28

WHEELWRIGHT: SOE Archives R4, Sheet 42

FRENCH

R5 – LES SS EN LIMOUSIN & QUERCY, Beau & Gaubussian, Presses de la Cité, Paris, 1984

DAS REICH ET LE COEUR DE LA FRANCE, Guicheteau, Daniel, Paris, 1974

LA RÉSISTANCE DANS LE SUD-OUEST, Dominique Lormier, Sud-Ouest, 1989

LA RÉSISTANCE EN TARN-ET-GARONNE, ANACR, Montauban, 1989

LES RÉSEAUX ET ACTION DE LA FRANCE COMBATTANTS 1940 – 1944, Amicale des Réseaux Action de la France

GUERRES MONDIALES & CONFLITS CONTEMPORAINES, 152 (1988) & 164, (1991) David Wingate-Pike

MUSÉE DE LA RÉSISTANCE DE LA DÉPORTATION ET DE LA

LIBÉRATION du Département du Lot, Bessières, Cahors. Tel: 05 65 22 14 25

MUSÉE DE LA RÉSISTANCE ET DE LA DÉPORTATION en Tarn-et-Garonne, Montauban. Tel: 05 63 66 03 11

MUSÉE DE LA RÉSISTANCE Toulouse. Tel: 05 61 14 80 40

GERMAN

COMRADES TO THE END - The 4th SS Panzer-Grenadier Regiment Der Führer 1938 – 1945, Otto Weidinger, Schiffer, PA, USA

CHAPTER 2

ENGLISH

TEMPSFORD AIRFIELD, Bernard O’Connor, Maythyme, 1991

CARPETBAGGERS, L R Dick, Flight Journal, Feb 1999

WE LANDED BY MOONLIGHT, Hugh Verity, Ian Allan, London 1979

MISSION BY MOONLIGHT, British SOE and American OSS Special Operations in Central South West France, Philip Vickers, unpublished msc, 1998

FRENCH

HISTOIRE DE LA RÉSISTANCE EN FRANCE, Jean-François Muracciole, Presses Universitaire de France MUSÉE CHARENTAIS DE LA RÉSISTANCE ET DE LA

DÉPORTATION, Angoulême. Tel: 05 45 38 76 87

CHAPTER 3

ENGLISH

THE STRUGGLE FOR EUROPE, Chester Wilmot, Collins, London, 1952

STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL – The History of the Second World War, R A C Parker, Oxford, 1989

SOLDIERS OF THE NIGHT – The Story of the French Resistance, David Schoenbrun, New American Library,New York, 1989

MOST SECRET WAR – British Scientific Intelligence 1939 – 1945, RV Jones, Hodder & Stoughton, 1978

SPECIAL DUTY OPERATIONS, R McLeod, ATB

ULTRA, R Bennet, ATB

D-DAY MUSEUM, Portsmouth, Hampshire

FRENCH

MUSÉE POUR LA PAIX & POUR COMPRENDRE LE XXe SIÈCLE, Caen, Normandy. Tel: 02 31 06 06 44

GERMAN

D-DAY – An Appreciation, G von Rundstedt, ATB

DIE INVASION HAT BEGONNEN!, B Zimmermann, ATB

GERMAN DEFENCES, B Zimmermann, ATB

CHAPTER 4

FRENCH

LA RÉSISTANCE DANS LE SUD-OUEST, Dominique Lormier, Sud-Ouest, 1989

LES RÉSEAUX ET ACTION DE LA FRANCE COMBATTANTS 1940 – 1944, Amicale des Réseaux Action de la France

OMBRES ET ESPÉRANCES EN QUERCY – Armée Secrète et Groupes Vény du Lot 1940 – 1945, Bru, Picard & Chaussade, Privat, Toulouse, 1980

CHAPTER 5

ENGLISH

THE GIRAFFE HAS A LONG NECK, Jacques Poirier, Leo Cooper, London, 1995

AUTHOR/DIGGER: SOE ARCHIVES R5, R4, Sheets 39/40

FOOTMAN: SOE ARCHIVES R4, Sheet 26

FRENCH

ANDRÉ MALRAUX ET LA RÉSISTANCE, G Penaud, Fanlac, Périgueux, 1986

HISTOIRE DE LA RÉSISTANCE EN PÉRIGORD, G Penaud, Fanlac, Périgueux, 1991

LA RÉSISTANCE EN DORDOGNE 1939 – 40 à 1945 – La Lutte contre le nazisme et le régime de Vichy, ANACR, Moderne, 1996

MAQUIS DE CORRÈZE, Collectif Maquis de la Corrèze, Musée Tulle, 1995

MUSÉE DE LA RÉSISTANCE ET DE LA DÉPORTATION, Tulle. Tel: 05 55 26 24 36

1944 EN DORDOGNE, J Lagrange, Pilote, Périgueux, 1993

COMPTE RENDU DES ACTIVITÉS D’UN RADIO ANGLAIS

PARACHUTÉ EN FRANCE PENDANT L’OCCUPATION, R Beauclerc, msc 1989

ROUTE DE LA LIBERTÉ, M M Fourcade, CN RD, Brive

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RÉSISTANCE ET DE LA DÉPORTATION, Musée Edmond Michelet, Brive Tel: 05 55 74 06 08

CHAPTER 6

ENGLISH

CARVE HER NAME WITH PRIDE, R J Minney, Newnes, London, 1956; J Arthur Rank film; T Popple, ATB

SALESMAN 2: SOE ARCHIVES A2, R5, Sheet 22

VENTRILOQUIST: SOE ARCHIVES B1, R5 P2, Sheet 9

VIOLETTE SZABO MILLENNIUM MUSEUM, Hereford, Tel: 01981-540477

FRENCH

LES ARTISANS DE LA LIBERTÉ, Philippe de Vomécourt, Pac, Paris,

1961 (WHO LIVED TO SEE THE DAY, Hutchinson, London)

QUATRE ANS DE LUTTE SUR LE SOL LIMOUSIN, Georges Guingouin, Hachette, Paris, 1978

L’OMBRE DE MARÉCHAL, de Cedouy & Follin, France 2 TV, 1995

CHAPTER 7

FRENCH

21 AOÛT 44 LIMOGES LIBÉRÉE, A Rodet, 1994

MUSÉE DE LA RÉSISTANCE DU DÉPARTEMENT DE LA HAUTE-VIENNE, Limoges Tel: 05 55 45 63 85

MUSÉE DE LA RÉSISTANCE DE PEYRAT-LE-CHÂTEAU, Tel: 05 55 69 48 75

CHAPTER 8

FRENCH

ORADOUR – PLUS PRÈS DE LA VÉRITÉ, P Maysounave, Souny, 1996 LA RÉGION DE ST-PAUL-D’EYJEAUX EN LIMOUSIN DURANT LA

SECONDE GUERRE MONDIALE, Yves Soulignac, La Veytizou, 1993

LA MILICE – La Collaboration en Uniforme, Historia No 40, 1975

CHAPTER 9

ENGLISH

ORADOUR: VILLAGE OF THE DEAD, P Beck, Leo Cooper, London, 1979

FRENCH

ORADOUR, Jean-Jacques Fouché, Liana Levi, Paris 2001

ORADOUR: LE DRAME HEURE PAR HEURE, R Hébras, CMD, Montreuil-Bellay, 1992

CENTRE DE LA MÉMOIRE, Oradour-sur-Glane. Tel: 05 55 43 04 30

CHAPTER 10

ENGLISH

OPERATION BULBASKET – Behind the Lines in Occupied France 1944,

P McCue, Pen & Sword, Leo Cooper, London, 1996

THE SAS, THE OFFICIAL HISTORY, P Warner, Warner Books, 1993

NOW IT CAN BE TOLD, Trustees of the IWM, DD Video

STATIONER: SOE ARCHIVES R4, R5, Sheet 30

FIREMAN: SOE ARCHIVES R5, B2, Sheet 26

SHIPWRIGHT: SOE ARCHIVES B2, R5, Sheet 30A

WRESTLER: SOE ARCHIVES R5, Sheet 27

CHAPTER 11

ENGLISH

CRUSADE IN EUROPE, Dwight Eisenhower, Heinemann, London, 1948

FLAMES IN THE FIELD – The Story of Four SOE Agents in Occupied France, Rita Kramer, Michael Joseph, London, 1995.

FRENCH

MÉMORIAL DE MONTORMEL - COUDEHARD, Montormel. Tel 02 33 67 38 61

Picture credits

The author acknowledges the generous contribution of illustrations from: Brive, Cahors, Tulle and Limoges Resistance Museums; Archives of Haute Vienne; Centre Jean Moulin; John Fielding; Denis Chansigaud; Daphne Friele; Yale Kramer; Maurice Lasvaux; Jacques Léonard; Dominique Lormier; Guy Pènaud; Pen & Sword Books Ltd; Jacques Poirier; Yves Soulignac; Special Forces Club; Taylor Library; Jacques Valéry; Alain de Vomécourt; Katharine Vickers; and Annieliese Weidinger.

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