Thursday, July 23, 2009

The resistance in the Dordone WW2

A couple of years ago I found a bayonet at an old house. It was a spike bayonet and a bit corroded. After much cleaning I managed to identify some numbering on the part that fits to the rifle, and after some internet searching, found that it was a British world war 2 bayonet. I wondered why it was in this area as the allied forces never came to this area. I assumed that it was part of an arms drop to the French resistance around here. This got me interested and the research started.
On the 31st March 1944 our local village, Rouffignac-st-Cernin, was destroyed by the German army. There is a small book, available from the tourist office, called “Rouffignac 31 March 1944” which details the story of what happened on that day. I will not copy the whole book here, but the rough outline is as follows:
The local resistance fighters ambushed and captured two German officers. They transported them through Rouffignac on the way back to their hideout. They stopped at Café de France in Rouffignac for refreshments, when some towns folk gathered to ridicule the Germans. After leaving Rouffignac, the vehicle in which they were travelling was unfortunate in that it met a German convoy coming the other way. The three resistance fighters managed to escape.
The Germans returned the next day and after removing all the towns people, and stealing all their belongings destroyed the whole town apart from the church and the adjoining building. The town was left as a heap of rubble.
Below is the small plaque which is on the wall of the town hall .

The next book that I read was “Spirit of Resistance” by Nigel Perrin (ISBN 184415855-1). This book covers the life of a British SOE agent named Harry Peuleve, who was sent to co-ordinate resistance activities in the Correz and the Dordogne. The resistance group in the north of the Dordogne was quite well established and Peuleve arranged many arms drops to the group, perhaps that is where my bayonet came from!
Harry Peuleve met Andre Bonnetot (codename Vincent) who was the leader of the Dordogne and was shown a resistance training camp near Fanlac (8 miles form our house). Today we went for a drive to Fanlac to see what was there. The village is tiny. There are about 30 houses, all over 300 years old. Outside the church is a memorial to a married couple in their 70s, who were shot by the Germans. The memorial reads “Nazis” as do most memorials now, but one can see where it used to read “Germans”.
The small tourist office has the story of an old couple who had a farm, but left it uninhabited to move into the village. The local resistance took over the farm as a training camp. This was the place that Harry Peuleve and Vincent had inspected.
The resistance was discovered and a German convoy arrived in the pretty village of Fanlac. The resistance fighters had had prior warning and had all left the farm, but the Germans burnt it to the ground anyway. They then went to the house of the farm owners, a couple in their 70s, and murdered them outside their house. The bodies were then burnt. All of this happened within days of Rouffignac being destroyed.
It is very sad when one considers how brutal the German army was to innocent civilians in their quest to destroy the brave resistance fighters. This area is littered with roadside memorials to either resistance fighters or victims of the Germans. The following two pictures are nothing to do with the local events.