Resistance Memorial Chasseneuil.

THE RESISTANCE MOVEMENT IN CHARENTE

The Franco-German armistice which was signed on 22 June 1940 at Rethondes was not followed by the expected peace, but by the occupation of France by the Germans.   France was cut in two by a line from the Pyrenees to the Swiss border.  Charente was split by a line which passed to the East of Angouleme; the occupied zone was to the West.

After the Allied landings in Algeria in November 1942, the Germans occupied the whole of France, including the so-called ‘free-zone’.  From March 1943, the gradual relaxation of strict controls along the demarcation line prompted the formation of little centres of resistance; this was the time for the creation of the resistance group “Bir’Hacheim” at Chasseneuil.

The Maquis Bir’Hacheim was formed in July 1943, mainly because of the increasing number of volunteers. The main activities of the maquis were : combat against the militiamen, sabotage of railway lines (in particular the destruction of bridges), attacks on the German command post at La Rochefoucauld and the liberation of the Confolens region with the maquis group “FTP” of Colonel Bernard.

The four main members of the group were:

Colonel André Chabanne.  He was arrested by the Germans in 1940 but escaped from two prison camps. In 1943 he was appointed head of the secret army (AS) in the Charente.  He worked towards the construction of the memorial but was very sadly killed in a road accident on 13 Feb 1963.

Guy Pascaud.  He was actively involved with the young volunteers, he was arrested on 22 March 1944 which put paid to his activities and he returned to France in July 1945

Helene Nebout. She assisted in the formation of the group. She took part in many operations and by some miracle survived after changing her identity 14 times.  At the time of writing, she is still alive and as far as I know, she lives in La Rochefecauld.

Claude Bonnier.  He was an officer of the parachute forces.  On 8 February 1944 he was arrested and taken to Bordeaux where he committed suicide by taking a cyanide pill.

After the War, Andre Chabanne devised the plan to raise a memorial to the resistance, in particular to the Maquis Bir’Hacheim. It was built on a hill overlooking Chasseneuil on land given by Mt Edouard Pascaud, the then Maire (Mayor) of Chasseneuil-sur-Bonnieure.

Construction started in 1945, mainly by former German soldiers who were, at that stage, prisoners.  The monument was eventually dedicated as one of the National Monuments to the memory of the Resistance on 21 October 1951 by the then President of the Republique, Vincent Auriol.

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