July 14th, 1944. The skies above Loubressac, high on the heavily
forested Causse in
Quercy, darken with parachutes and fill with the drone of USAAF B-17 Flying Fortresses and their fighter
plane escort. One of the allies' largest ever arms drops to the Maquis - the clandestine groups of resisters in southwest France - is underway.
Hitler's evil war is finally falling apart and his occupying
forces in Quercy have been ordered to make haste to the Normandy
coast to intercept allied landings. As they go, they pillage,
burn and slaughter, and are harried and harassed by saboteurs,
infiltrated special British and American agents and the Maquis.
Nearly seven decades later the surviving members of the Résistance
grow fewer with each passing year, but the remaining maquisards
- dignified, upstanding and white haired - will never forget.
On July 14 (Bastille Day) they hold annual remembrance services
at stone memorials dotted around the Lot: at Saint Céré
, Lamaresque-Loubressac and Carennac, an area heavy with the trail
of war atrocity. (See maps here for locations).
Marcel Rauffet - Résistance fighter
To view the memorial inscription, please click image above
During World War II Quercy, which includes the Lot, was a patchwork of allied spies, Résistance fighters,
Nazi collaborators and Hitler's feared Das Reich SS Panzer division.
Click above to view
Click above to view
Visitors to the Lot today never have to stray far to come across
memorial stones, signposts, plaques, crosses and flowers in many
corners of town and countryside all bearing witness to the terrible
toll Nazi occupiers wreaked on the Maquis and their supporters.
One such event - the Gabaudet farm massacre -near Issendolus some
7.7 km south of Gramat off the D840 road - remains a vivid memory.
What happened here on the 8th June 1944 is recounted by Louise
Butler, part-time volunteer at the Musée de la résistance,
de la déportation et de la libération du département
du Lot in Cahors.
"Elements of the German
SS Das Reich Panzer Division were
on their way to try to counter the Normandy landings, and came
through the département at great speed, hampered
by Résistance ambushes and sabotage. With the news of the
Normandy landings, there was a massive swell of young people trying
to join Résistance groups, and the farm at Gabaudet was
being used to sort out the volunteers. Unfortunately collaborators
knew the farm was being used by the Résistance and subsequently
drew the attention of the Das Reich division on their way through.
29 people were massacred, and some 30 deported to concentration
camps where they later died".
The ruins of the barn have been left as they were and a freshly
painted white cross stands in the middle of a crossroad bearing
the words "pour la barbarie allemande" above
the names of those slain.The
Das Reich, a few days later, slaughtered 642 men, women and children,
at Oradour sur Glane, Haut Vienne, Limouisin.
Louise is helping organise this years' 14th July remembrance in
the Loubressac area. It comes hard on the heels of the 70th
anniversary of L'Appel
du 18 Juin .
This was the 1940 speech, billed as one of the most important in
French history, which saw Charles de Gaulle leader of the Free
French Forces, launch his call from the studios of the BBC in
London, for Résistance to the German occupation. He concluded with
a phrase that has gone down in history:
'The flame of French Résistance must
not and will not be extinguished'.
If you are able to attend this simple ceremony and meet with
Henri Gambade, a surviving Maquis whose story is also told here
(see below), then please click
this link for details.
Loubressac and surrounding villages certainly resisted, bearing
scars still unhealed today. Those involved played an important
role in aiding allied intelligence operatives of the SOE and the
OSS - which later became the CIA -infiltrated in support of the
Maquis in the area. One such story is that of SOE officers,
Major Hiller and Captain Watney, parachuted into the area to aid
the local résistance, ambushed by the Germans... and survived!
read the remarkable story of Major Hiller and Captain Watney,
click this link.
Henri Gambade, Legion d'Honneur
One of the surviving maquisards Henri Gambade, 90, recently
recounted his tale to Louise, as part of ongoing efforts to document
all the events of that extraordinary and devastating period. You
can read this full and fascinating extract of this remarkable
man's exploits, from Louise's diary notes by clicking
this link to a new page on this website.
Readers may also be interested in an event taking place on 10th
July 2010 at 1500 at the Cahors Resistance Museum -- a commemoration
of the (often forgotten) fact that US special forces parachuted
into the region during the summer of 1944 ... from RAF aircraft!
Susanna Stevens who has organised it writes: [More...]