I was going to write a little blog on how French shops are almost always closed but after what I’ve seen tonight that feels a little trivial.
Expanding on a theme from the other day I’d invite you to think about the village of Vassieux-en-Vercors the next time someone refers to the French as “cheese eating surrender monkeys”
As I mentioned it was the centre of French resistance, the high plateau and the Vercors mountains being an ideal place for a guerilla force to hang out.
The French Govnt in exile backed a plan by one of the resistance leaders-The Montagnards plan- which would have seen Allied troops landed on the Vercors massif after D Day and then cutting off the Germans lines of retreat
For reasons that I’m not clear about (Though some blame de gaulle) the plan was never executed but after D Day the ranks of the Maquis resistance fighters massing in these mountains grew and grew
Allied planes dropped supplies although the heavy weapons required by the Maquis never arrived.
By July 1944 the Germans had decided to put a stop to this show of resistance.
Vassieux and other towns were bombed. And on July 20 SS paratroops (backed it must be said by collaborating French militia) landed in gliders on the plateau outside Vassieux
Other German troops and police sealed off the area and for 3 days fighting raged. Vassieux was left in ruins There are pictures of bodies lying in the streets
Around 80 civilians were killed and 130 fighters. Reports speak of torture and massacre”
We drove up the mountains tonight to see the place. Even before you get to Vassieux there is a memorial in the middle if nowhere to men killed by the Germans in the tiny villlage of Lente
But it’s the cemetery on the outskirts of Vassieux which is the most moving. The resting place of almost 800 victims of German reprisals I saw the grave of a six month old baby. And one of an 88 year old man
Many had no name…I’m guessing these were strangers who came here from other pars of France to fight
They also have the metal frames of the gliders that brought death from the skies. Quite chilling.
So next time someone makes a crack about how easily France fell..just mention the town of Vassieux