Monday, 11 August 2014

A walk down memory lane.

The local tourism organisations have recently laid out a new circular rambling trail through wood and farmland near the tiny hamlet of Le Chatelars, commemorating and dedicated to the memory of the World War 2 Resistance group members who were brought up in and/or operated in the immediate area. The French Resistance is often called the Maquis, named after brushwood landscape common throughout France.

The walk is not too long and can be covered in an hour and a half or so, but at each of the seven points along the way, one is reminded of the important events of 1943-45 which took place in the surrounding countryside. To be able to walk in the footsteps of these brave Frenchmen and Frenchwomen, remembering their sacrifices, is a most rewarding way of spending time on a sunny Charente summer day!

The welcome sign at the start of the walk. It shows the area, the route, the insignia of the local group (named Bir Hacheim after the North African desert battle) who started the organised resistance  against Nazi occupation in September 1943, and photos of the group's three founders. Firstly, Helene Nebout (known as "Chef Luc") is still alive and living locally. In the centre, Andre Chabanne, the commander and to the right, Guy Pascaud.

Close to the welcome sign is another, identifying the ruins of an ancient priory  probably built in the 10th century. The Resistance fighters built a platform high in one of the priory's towers, in order to observe the activities of the occupying troops in the nearby town of Chasseneuil-sur-Bonnieure.

See more about the abbey HERE

A direction arrow at a junction of pathways.

Not too far off the path and guided by arrows, you find the "gourbi" - a foxhole, deep in the woods, where resistance members would have gathered. Many were young men escaping the S.T.O - compulsory transportation to Germany as forced labour. 

The hideout has obviously seen better days, but I hope you can imagine a timber roof structure covered with clay tiles! The sign above includes a sketch of what the entrance may have looked like.

The village (pronounced "Plam-bo)was where the Resistance had their fuel depot. After refuelling here on the night of 5 February 1944, a Resistance patrol was caught in a German ambush at Saint Mary, another village, a few miles away. Maxence Simon, a 17 year old Resistance member, out on patrol for the first time, was killed in a two hour gun battle.

The village of Plaimbost along the route.

Andre Chabanne was brought up by his grandfather in this nearby village, after being orphaned in the Great War. He went to school locally and in 1939, joined the French Army. Captured in 1942 and sent to Germany, he escaped, but was recaptured. Six months later, he escaped again and went to Paris. Knowing that the Gestapo were watching him, he returned to the countryside and rejoined the Resistance, later founding and commanding the Bir Hacheim group. His code name was "Blanqui". He survived the war, but died in 1963, killed, I understand, in a car accident.

Reprisals -supplied with information from the French Milice about the Resistance, a German motorised division surrounded the town of Chasseneuil-sur-Bonnieure on 22 March 1944 and the Gestapo arrested 150 people. Many were later released, but Guy Pascaud, with others, was deported to Germany.

 A grassy lane along the route

The main activity of Bir Hacheim was sabotaging of the vital railway line between Limoges and Angouleme. In June 1944, they attacked the German command post at La Rochefoucauld, a nearby small town. In all, their disruptive and harrying tactics forced the Nazis to divert important troops to the Charente area from the Normandy battlefront.


Put in place in 1940, this artificial border was created between the area of France occupied by the Nazis, generally to the North, and the "free zone" or "Vichy France", generally in the South, controlled by the French "Milice" (Police), who were  collaborating with the invaders. Identity cards had to be produced to the guards at crossing points and the Line caused great disruption in the everyday lives of French people living near the border.

You can see more about the Resistance Memorial HERE 

Stone plaque at the foot of a cedar tree planted in 1978 in Le Chatelars to commemorate the activities of the Maquis Bir Hacheim.


See also My Life Before Charente (updated 9 March - I will catch up in winter!)
and my daily blog

58 comments:

  1. So much history here. Andre Chabanne was a very interesting guy. Just amazing. We would love to visit here one day, read the plaques and see what it must have been like during the war. So easily today young people forget.
    Sam

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    1. Sam we are in a very historic part of France re the resistance. Amazing and such brave people, this walk is a great reminder for all. Take care Diane

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  2. What a lovely memorial to those brave souls.

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    1. Vera you are right, they were very brave and this is a lovely reminder of what they did and who they were. Take care Diane

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    2. What a great walk and so interesting. My BIL would love this as he's interested in was history. See you soon. Kerry and Roger x

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    3. Hi Kerry, wondered what had happened to your comment, just found it attached to Vera's note :-) You will have to bring your BIL over some time and we can all stroll along the walk together. See you now very soon :-) Diane

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  3. Thanks for sharing.
    (And this wasn't that long ago.)

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    1. You are so right Rick, it really was not that long ago. Without these brave people I wonder what life would have been like today. Have a good day, Diane

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  4. What a marvelous way to learn history! Glad to see you back. I've only been to France once, did the usual Paris and Provence tour, stopped at major tourist places. One day, I'd like to see this part of France.

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    1. Thanks Rosaria, time has been very tight and it may be a couple of months before I get to post more but we shall see. This is a beautiful part of France and yes, I agree what a wonderful way to learn about history. Keep well Diane

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  5. Hi Diane , I totally agree with you , and then I would like to learn history :!! I like looking around and learning as you know ,but with dates etc I am useless . Thank for sharing this walk , looks wonderful take care xoxo Anne

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    1. Anne it is a very new idea and we only found out about it a few weeks ago. Glad that you have managed to to a virtual walk with us. Take care Diane

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  6. Diane, so nice to visit you again. Always enjoy the history you share with us all.

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    1. Susan it is good to hear from you as well. History here is so different to anything I learnt at school (which I hated), I now really find it interesting. Take care Diane

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  7. It looks like a beautiful walk, and it's good that people are remembering the Resistance. The World War II generation are nearly all gone, and it's imperative that we continue to remember - history repeating itself and that sort of thing. As always, your pictures were wonderful. Thanks for the virtual tour.

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    1. Thanks Marjie for your kind words. I think it is important we remember, most of us in Europe had family involved in the two World Wars and I am sure many Americans and Canadians did as well. It would be so nice to live in a peaceful world! Keep well, all of you. Diane

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  8. Howdy Diane ! Wow...sounds like you're having so much fun travelling this year. Its a good thing to do when you're still have strong legs to be able to walk around and enjoy as many fabulous places as you could. Cause it will get difficult when you get older. By the way, love the photos taken at Portugal.
    Have a lovely week ahead dear. ((hugs))
    Blessings, Kristy

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    1. Thanks Kirsty, we love to see places that we have not been, and there is so much of Europe that we can drive to. As you say we must do these things while we can :-) Take care Diane

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  9. I love a good trip down memory lane, and this post is fantastic, Diane! Love your photos! Thank you so much for sharing all this, I really enjoyed my time here.

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    1. Thanks Linda and I am glad that you enjoyed this post. We so enjoyed the walk we did it twice within a fortnight, I can see visitors will be taken there on a regular basis LOL. Keep well, Diane

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  10. I love history! And this sounds amazing this is really inteteresting Diane! Alwsys I love resistence's and how they were really brave!
    Thanks Diane:)

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    1. Thanks Gloria, they were brave people and all knew that they could be shot at any minute. Now if only the rest of the world could sort out their wars so we could all live in peace! Take care Diane

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  11. Fascinating. Thanks for sharing this. What a wonderful way to remember those brave people. X

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    1. Thanks Maggie for the kind words. Hope all goes well for you, so exciting to be buying in France, we know the feeling well. Have a wonderful trip over Diane

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  12. That is a great memorial to those brave people and a nice walk too. I love reading about these characters.

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    1. diane I wish my French was good enough to be able to chat to the few who remain and remember it all so clearly. Glad that you enjoyed the virtual tour. Take it easy, t'other Diane

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  13. You are truly blessed to have all those beautiful historical places to visit!

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    1. Liesl I enjoyed South African history, but here there is so much more and it goes back so far, there are bits of it to remind us everywhere even back to when the Romans were here. Enjoy your country though, it is beautiful. Diane

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  14. Hi Diane - great photos .. giving us an idea of the surroundings and how the Resistance countered their challenges. I've never been interested in the Wars, except knowing that they were appalling, but necessary for freedom. But the fact I'm blogging and have decided to write about both has opened my eyes somewhat ... to the logistics, the how, the why to a point, some of the wheres, and now here with you the where of an area of Resistance ...

    I'd love to do the walk sometime, and visit the Cemeteries ... and I'm enjoying the learning from some of the newspaper/magazine articles as too some tv programmes ... and the history - the horrors I really don't want to know about - they frighten me ... to think of how people can treat people ...

    It continues on - and is almost now worse ... I can't understand why the 21st century is turning out to be so so difficult ... when the western world had the opportunity to offer progress to so many ... but that's enough for now ...

    Thanks for sharing this reminder of the Resistance's memory lane near you ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Hi Hilary, There is some very interesting history around here. Not just the wars but it all goes way back. I also do not enjoy the horrors of war and I find them very frightening as well. As you say wars continue world wide, and they can do even more damage now with what is available to them. If only the whole world could live in peace, but there will always be someone!!! Take care and have a good week Diane

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  15. Thank you Diane, I saw many stories of the Resistance growing up. We must always remember the brave people who fought against such tyranny. A wonderful history of such people.

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    1. Thanks Denise for the comment, they were brave people. Our neighbour's father sheltered and airman and arranged for his return to America. The family kept in touch for many years afterwards. Have a good day Diane

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  16. What an interesting idea Diane, this is a walk I am sure I would enjoy. Thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. Linda, it is a great walk and a good way to learn along the way. Hope you are well Diane

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  17. This would definitely be an interesting area to visit. It would be a great way for young people to learn about some important brave people in history and more. I've been to Paris, Le Havre and surrounding areas, but would love to see this area and southern France. Have a great rest of the week!

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    1. Pam we are right in the centre of the resistance area, so many stories and so many brave people. Hope you get to see central and Southern France one day. You also have a good week. Diane

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  18. I hope that places like the one you describe here remind all of us that it is much better to have close friendly ties than fight each other, in whatever form.

    Thank you for this very interesting post.

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    1. Friko I could not agree more, we are friends with our neighbours so why cannot countries be friends as well! Take care Diane

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  19. Tu as de la chance d'habiter une région aussi riche en histoire. Je ferai ce parcours avec passion.
    A bientôt

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    1. Nous sommes chanceux, tellement d'histoire autour de nous. Bonne journée. Diane

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  20. To walk thru these historic places is like reliving the times. And such a nice job with all the interpretive signs. You really do live amongst French history. Thank you for sharing this.

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    1. Gaelyn I wish I had of had history lessons about France, I am sure they would have then had me hooked! The very ancient buildings, the Roman remains and the remembrance of both world wars is very strong here and we live in the middle of it all. Glad you enjoyed the virtual walk down memory lane with us. Have a good week Diane

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  21. Very interesting post. I love those ruins!

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    1. José those abbey ruins are stunning. We were lucky enough to see around them on a previous trip. Because they are on private grounds not everyone is as lucky as we were. Take care Diane

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  22. Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing it. I recall visiting a Museum of the Resistance in Brittany many years ago and being struck by a display showing how little the French people had to eat in those days. How wonderful that one of the founders of this group is still alive.

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    1. Thanks Bill for your comment. Sadly only one of the group remains and she is now not very mobile but her brain so I gather is still good. Have a good day Diane

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  23. This is an amazing medley of photographs. Thanks for visiting my blog today! First time visiting yours but I am happy to have seen your photos.

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    1. Thanks Kate, comment and visit appreciated. Take care Diane

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  24. It's so interesting to read this part of history and to see the pictures. I know nothing about French history.

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    1. Francesca I also knew very little till we moved here. There is so much history here, as in a lot of Europe, and although I hated history at school I know find it fascinating. Thanks for the comment, have a good day, Diane

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  25. I enjoyed this memory walk and reading all the panels in French. There were so many people in the Resistance – men and woman. Many of them were not French, but émigrés like Polish, Italians, Armenians and such who had lived in France or came back there to fight. Because of the commemoration of the Liberation of Paris this week I have read articles on the war in the US press or on the web and seen comments by Americans. Many say that Paris was freed by US soldiers and no French took part – which is totally wrong. It is so sad that people do not know their history.

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    1. Vagabonde I am glad that you enjoyed this post, it was a good time for us to discover this new walk. I am afraid some countries are inclined to make history suit what they think, or maybe believe, but it is not always true as you have discovered. Rhodesian history has certainly been changed to suit the Zimbabweans, but hopefully there are enough books written about the true stories that all will not get lost in the future! Thanks for the comment. Bonne semaine, Diane

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    1. Thanks Regine, it is good that we remember these brave people and the good life we now lead. Take care Diane

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  27. Reading your posts opens my eyes of what your ancestors have done.

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    1. Rose not really my ancestors, but I am still proud to live here in France and see what the French were capable of. Take care Diane

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  28. This is really interesting - I would love to follow that walk and find out more about the brave resistance. It is a time in history that fascinates me, as I always wonder what I would have done faced with the same choices to make. Our village here in France has been named as one of the Villages des Justes (http://ancienscombattants.e-monsite.com/pages/village-des-justes.html) in recognition of the work that the locals did in rescuing, hiding and protecting Jews during WW2. Despite being English and not born here, I do feel strangely proud!! I must try and write a blog post about this sometime!

    Dormouse (https://fatdormouse.wordpress.com/ and http://fatdormouse.blogspot.fr/)

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    1. Thanks so much for your visit and comment Fat Dormouse, much appreciated. I am also fascinated by the resistance and will be popping by your blog in the next couple of days. Just off out now but will catch up later. Have a good day Diane

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