Jump to content

FFI GROUP REUNITED


PKeating
 Share

Recommended Posts

I showed a few of these items before, some years ago, but I was contacted a couple of times since then by the grandson who gave me some additional pieces, including the photographs taken outside and around the town hall of the 9th District of paris during the actual Battle of Paris in August 1944 and, more recently, his grandfather's Resistance Medal, a set of Paris FFI veteran badges by Arthus Bertrand and a 32nd Artillery Regiment in its paper packet by Drago, who also made the extremely rare FFI Paris Battalion badge in the top righthand of the display. Close-ups of the photos show the grandfather standing on the tank and that several of the partisans are wearing this armband, stamped "Milices Patriotiques FFI" and authorised by the stamp of the Mairie du IXe Arrondissement Paris.

Edited by PKeating
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, lads. The Battle of Paris or l'Insurrection, as some veterans call it, is a surprisingly little-known subject. A lot of people think it was little more than a few lately-come opportunists lobbing Molotov cocktails at German trucks speeding out of the city but it was a lot more violent than that. The problem, perhaps, is that many of the partisan units in the suburbs were Communist FTP rather than Gaullist FFI, although the Gaullists liked to give the impression that everyone was happily united under the FFI banner. The Battle of St-Denis, for instance, left the centre of the suburb looking like Stalingrad or Grozny, German tanks and self-propelled guns having gone down streets pumping HE rounds into the buildings one after the other as the FTP fighters moved from house to house.

There was quite severe fighting, but with firearms rather than artillery, around the Batignolles and Clichy districts because they were on main routes towards the roads to the north and the east, along which German units were retreating. René Monnier, who was born in 1925, was a teenaged bill poster working for the Mairie du IXe. The photos were actually taken outside the Marie du XVIIe (17th District) , which adjoins the 9th District so, given that two types of FFI brassard are visible, it seems that Monnier's unit came north from their HQ in the town hall of the 9th District in the rue Drouot, a mile or so to the south-east, to join in the harassment of Germans trying to escape towards the Portes de Clignancourt and La Chapelle, towards St-Ouen and St-Denis, where the FTP were waiting.

His family also gave me a German bilingual notice he had saved for posterity, glued to some plywood. It seems stable enough so I might just glaze it. My wife has of course forbidden me to hang it up, even in my study. It is quite a grim reminder of the moment when all pretence at the Paris-Berlin Alliance went out the window. Monnier became involved with the Resistance in 1942 as a messenger. He certainly took part in the fighting around the Place de Chichy and the rue des Batignolles in August 1944. He was then, like other FFI men who had seen action and were of military age, taken into Leclerc's 2nd Armoured Division, serving with the 32nd Artillery Regiment until the end of the war, when he was demobbed. Towards the end of his life, he lived near us, on the Avenue de la République, having worked as a plumber. I happened to be in a little coin and medal shop, now closed, when one of the grandchildren came in, seeking to sell some of the stuff. Just luck, really.

Edited by PKeating
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Young René Monnier is the lad in the pale shirt standing beside the turret of the tank, with his hand on the shoulder of the old chap holding the stick grenade. Sadly, his armband can't be seen but in another of the photos, two types of FFI brassard are visible, one of which is clearly the same type as the one pictured above, as issued to Monnier, who worked for the Mairie. Look at this photo. Look at what some of them wearing on their feet, at the worn-out, shabby clothing, at the faces marked by stress, tiredness and hunger. These are photos taken during the Uprising, not several days later when people made an effort for the camera. Most of the weapons are French, except for the stick grenades and, interestingly, the Thompson, complete with US Army-issue magazine pouch, proof that the inner city Paris Resistance got some of the weapons from airdrops in the countryside outside the city.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A detail from another of the photos. The older man with the cigarette in his mouth, holding a stick grenade, is wearing the same brassard as the one from the Monnier group. Note the pharmacy in the background with the illuminated green (they were always green) cross outside. This is on the corner of the rue des Batignolles and the rue Mariotte, just by the town hall, where the pavement widens to form a little place in front of the town hall, out of shot to the left in the photo.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And to round it off, courtesy of Google Maps, a current view of the same place today. Apart from the 1960s Stalinist monstrosity on the right, which is part of the town hall, the street hasn't changed much. The pharmacy is still a pharmacy. I went there and the same family still own it. The grandson's eyes were out on stalks as he looked at the photos. So I shall make him some good copies to hang in the shop.

Edited by PKeating
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Prosper,

What did the Police get up to during the Battle. You hear that the French Police hardly came out of the occupation smelling of roses! Did they join in, look away?or god forbid assist the Germans.

Craig

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Police Nationale came out of their HQ on the Île de la Cité in Paris and stations across the capital at the last minute and engaged the Germans. To be fair, many police and gendarmes did their best not to collaborate and even to help the Resistance, as well as Jews and other hunted people, but the organisations remain forever tarred with the «collabo» brush. General de Gaulle didn't make too much of an issue of it as he was keen to promote national unity after the Liberation. Mind you, there was, effectively, a civil war from 1944 to 1947, with old partisan groups fighting one another and old scores being settled. Until de Gaulle clamped down on it. This is why so many very bad people ended up as respectable members of the postwar establishment, including Papon and Mitterand.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

  • Blog Comments

    • Two years down the line.   My mother-in-law passed away this summer, as did one of her sisters-in-law.   My exhibition opened, and we had a marvellous speakers' night with four Peacekeeping veterans, including a Meritorious Service Medal winner.  But Covid closed it down in March 2020, and while still there it hasn't reopened.
    • Sounds great other than the Orange & Mango squash only because I prefer cran-pomegranate juice.
    • "(...) disgusting herbal concoction (...)" I took note of this description, to enrich my otherwise limited, English "Wortschatz"...
    • At work the standard indian tea such as PG tips is referred to as chimp tea. This goes back to the days when we had a Spanish girl working for us whose command of the English language was extremely limited. One lunch she said she was going to the shop could she get anything. I asked if she could get a pack of tea bags. She returned with some disgusting herbal concoction. I tried to explain what was required but without success. I then remembered PG tips had a picture of a chimpanzee on the packe
    • When I read Lapsang Souchong i decided to post something about these Tea . Many years ago I dont  know about Lapsang until I read James Michener book Centennial and the description of the savour of the Lapasang as a mix of tar and salt & smoked made me proof . It was exact ! and i liked it since then .
×
×
  • Create New...