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FTPF Company Fanion


PKeating
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Original FTPF material is hard to find. I was lucky enough to acquire this company fanion used by the 8th Company of the 3rd Battalion of the FTPF, which adopted the honorific title "Bernard Palissy", a famous French potter and porcelain maker of the 16th century, who worked in the town of Agen, in the operational zone of the 3?me FTPF. FTPF stands for Francs tireurs parisans fran?ais. They were sometimes known as the FTPC or Francs tireurs partisans communistes. This fanion uses FTPF but the red star indicates the resistance movement's predominantly communist leanings. The FTP - as the movement is also known - were the counterparts to the FFI or Forces fran?aises de l'int?rieur, which enjoyed General de Gaulle's approval.

Many FTP fighters had military experience, either with the French armed forces in the colonies and the War of 1939-1940 or in the Spanish Civil War. More than a few were hardened street fighters who had belonged to far left gangs in the 1930s. The movement took its name from the earlier Francs tireurs of the 19th century, which were, in a sense, the closest thing France had to territorial and militia units. The FTP of the Second World War could be considered as the armed wing of the Front National, the 1930s communist political movement founded by French Communist Party members, and nothing to do with the postwar Front National which we associate with Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Prior to the invasion of the USSR by Germany in June 1941, no resistance was offered against the German presence in France by the French Communist Party and its various branches, although some communists broke ranks on an individual basis, and were either expelled from the movement or assassinated in line with typical communist methods. Following the invasion, the FTP became the first resistance group in France to inflict casualties on the Wehrmacht. The movement was "integrated" into the Gaullist FFI in February 1944, although many units refused to recognise the order from London, seeing de Gaulle as a representative of the Conservative establishment they detested.

They were efficient fighters in the main. One of their most spectacular battles took place in August 1944 in the northern Parisian suburb of St-Denis, when the local FTP ambushed a retreating German column, leaving the centre of St-Denis looking rather like Stalingrad. The 3rd FTPF, operating in the region around the town of Agen, roughly halfway between Bordeaux and Montauban, mounted a number of attacks and ambushes on units of the Das Reich Division as it formed up and began moving towards Normandy along the N20 highway in June 1944. With many trade unionists, factory hands, railwaymen and other French infrastructure workers in its ranks, the FTP was also able to implement sabotage at all levels without even having to use arms.

It is fair to say that there was a general tendency in France after the war to airbrush the FTP out of the picture, although this was resisted by veterans and by fair-minded historians. Nevertheless, many French people whose knowledge of the Second World War is quite extensive are quite surprised to learn, for instance, of the "Battle of St-Denis" and other episodes involving the FTP. Official histories record many of their actions as FFI enterprises in view of the order of February 1944. It boiled down, really, to the French establishment's prewar fear of Bolshevism, which was then overtaken by the exigencies of the Cold War. Yet wartime and postwar generations of French working class people remembered the part played in resistance by the FTP, which they saw very much as the armed wing of the French Communist Party - not unlike the relationship between S?nn Fein and the IRA - and the FCP has since enjoyed significant political power in France, although that power seems to be waning today.

PK

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It's one of "those pieces", isn't it? As you pointed out, the repairs add a real poignance, don't they? Oh Lord...imagine a group of men and women in some humid forest clearing in the spring of '44, parading in a soldierly fashion, with this fanion tied to the bayonet of whatever rifle they had that took a bayonet, going through the motions of being a military unit, some of them having been soldiers, others learning their craft in the maquis, all of them with knotted guts as they thought of the tasks before them, going up against heavily armed veterans of Russia, Africa and Italy.

It's the only FTP piece I have. They're that rare. You've seen my modest FFI collection. FFI stuff is also rare. These FTP and FFI fanions, armbands, badges and other things only appeared in the months leading up to and the weeks after the Normandy and Provence landings. They were an attempt to legitimise resistance fighters. The Free French even included insignia in their UK and and US-sponsored parachute drops of arms and supplies in 1943 and 1944, as I showed you, Chris, but the Wehrmacht was disinclined to recognise these fighters as legitimate.

If anyone's interested, I'll post some examples of the limited material I have been lucky enough to find...

PK

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