Thursday, June 6, 2013

After D-Day, the Germans attack the Resistance during the Battle of Les Souches

A few days after D-day a man arrived at Les Souches by bicycle. The men at the guard post at the end of the lane, on the main road, stopped him and brought him to me. When I asked him where he had come from he said from Paris. I asked him if he had seen barricades en route, and when he said no, I was flabbergasted. It meant that none of the networks between Paris and Les Souches had obeyed London’s orders to block the roads. We were the only ones to have done so, by felling trees across the main road. I immediately thought, Heavens, we’re the bridge-head.

Sure enough, two or three days later we were attacked. The snooper plane had spotted the trees we had felled. For a time, the Germans used the snooper, a small plane they flew to examine the land if they didn’t know it very well. They must have concluded there were quite a number of us hiding in the Taille de Ruine woods. I have never understood why ours was the only team to have obeyed orders...

My lieutenant, Raymond Billard, or “Gaspard,” a discharged sailor and member of the Wrestler circuit, told me that the day after the snooper had flown over, he and four others were driving in a Citroën front-wheel drive from the château to Monsieur Sabassier’s house when they came face-to-face with the Germans. Both parties were very surprised to see each other! The Germans got out and machine-gunned them, but none of them were hurt.

When more German soldiers appeared, the lads on the main road blew the bugle—but obviously not loudly enough. It was our danger signal but I was the only person to hear it. I told Henri, “We’re under attack.” He replied, “No, it’s Sunday, we can’t be attacked on a Sunday.” Father Valuche was celebrating mass nearby in the château. Monsieur Sabassier and the rest of us tried to see who was coming, but it was a long way; we couldn’t see very well. Then Henri had an idea: “We’ll fire into the air and we’ll know straightaway if they’re Germans or other Maquis members.” Sure enough, we found out immediately.

I threw on my clothes, picked up my bag and the cocoa tin where the money was kept. As I climbed down the ladder from the attic, German bullets were whizzing past my ears. At the bottom, I jumped on my bike and cycled to the château’s outhouses where the weapons we had just received were stocked. They hadn’t even been cleaned yet and were still covered in protective grease. I hastily loaded the guns anyway and put detonators in the hand grenades. Then one of the chaps rushed up to me and told me to leave as quickly as possible: the Germans were approaching...

Excerpt from "The Battle of Les Souches" from Code Name Pauline: Memoirs of a WWII Special Agent.

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