Let’s discover the Resistance in the Manche through some objects of the museum.

by | 27 Mar 20 | Civilians in war, historics-collectibles

This small wooden coffin was sent in 1944 to a shopkeeper in the Saint-Lô region, a notorious economic collaborator, accompanied by a letter full of “recommendations” for the years to come and the behavior to be followed… It reveals a solid spirit of resistance. The feeling of Resistance in the Manche region was born as soon as the Germans arrived at the beginning of the war and became even stronger with the Armistice and the multiplication of constraints, due to both Vichy and the occupiers. The resistance in La Manche took various forms but was characterized by the refusal to submit.

The objects of the Resistance in Manche

Model of coffin sent to notorious collaborators to incite them to change their behavior.

These Manchois who refuse defeat

The first members of the Resistance were those from Manche who refused to accept defeat and decided to go to England. In the summer of 1940, they joined the troops that General de Gaulle was gathering. It was then a weak force, socially as well as militarily and geographically heterogeneous, whose strength hardly exceeded 7000 men in July 1940.

Some of these men came from the Manche dpt, which they managed to leave by sea, with the help of fishermen from Granville, Chausey, Coutainville, Carteret…

Like these four young Valognais who, on June 18, 1940, while Rommel’s troops had not yet taken Cherbourg, reached the port of Goury, embarked for Guernsey and took the boat for England. And who four days later, after various interrogations, joined the Free French Forces.

Or the 20-year-old apprentice pastry chef from Coutances who decided, when the Germans arrived, to “do something”. With five friends and the help of a fisherman from Le Passous, he rowed to Jersey. Enlisted in his turn, he fought in Africa, in Italy, landed in Provence, did the Alsace campaign and ended his journey with the Victory Parade in Paris, in 1945.

The Resistance in actions

These Manchois who have the spirit of resistance, who refuse the Occupation and all those who serve it, act above all in two ways. We first find acts hostile to Germany and Vichy, such as the cutting of German cables on the side of the road, the tearing down of propaganda posters or adding comments, moving German signposts. We can also add the help given to escaped French prisoners, to young patriots leaving for England and to English soldiers. Then, Manchois want to show their patriotism by wearing the national colors, rallies at the call of the BBC, the celebrations of November 11 and the laying of wreaths at the monuments of 14-18. From the spring of 1941, this state of mind of opposition is manifested by the multiplication of Vs for victory and crosses of Lorraine on the walls.

A hostile state of mind that worries Vichy and the Germans

Quite widespread in the department, this first movement of refusal reveals from the beginning of the war, a hostile state of mind, about which Vichy and the Germans are worried. The perpetrators of all these acts are then sought and severely condemned when they are discovered. With the war dragging on, repression hardened and hostility grew even more. But it was above all the German defeats in the East and the messages of General de Gaulle, broadcast on the BBC, which led to widespread public support for the ideas of the Resistance. After October 1942, the sending of workers to Germany and the STO ended up dissatisfying the Manchois. From now on, everything is done to avoid “that”. In the spring of 1944, the hardening of the Occupation and the imminence of the landing further reinforced anti-German sentiment in the Channel.

The Resistance in La Manche relies on very secret networks

The organized resistance in the Manche dpt was set up in 1940, but was mainly structured from 1941 and 1942. It was based on very secret networks, the purpose of which was to provide military information to the Allies and broader movements , which strive to mobilize public opinion.

From the summer of 1940, small groups formed in the Manche dpt, without relations with the outside world. This is the case of the group of Maurice Marland in Granville or those of Cherbourg and Saint-Lô. Then between 1942 and 1944, about twenty networks were set up, which recruited from all walks of life and above all sought information on the German defences.

Les mouvements se développent un peu plus vite : début 1941 pour le Front National, communiste et dès 1942 pour les deux autres mouvements Libération-Nord et l’Organisation Civile et Militaire puis surtout après l’attaque de l’URSS par Hitler

The movements developed a little faster: at the beginning of 1941 for the “Front National, communiste” and from 1942 for the two other “Libération-Nord” and the “Organisation Civile et Militaire” movements then especially after Hitler’s attack on the USSR

All their members provide intelligence first, they help STO deputies who refuse to leave, provide false papers, hide wanted people , carry out isolated sabotage and above all, disseminate propaganda in favor of the Gaullists or the Communists.

On the other hand, the “collaborators” are the target of the Resistance and it is not uncommon for some to receive a package with a small coffin accompanied by a warning letter. In the spring of 1944, the Manchois resistance fighters numbered around 1,800, now unified within the FFI, French forces of the Interior. Few in number but determined, ill-equipped, tested by numerous arrests, they are nonetheless ready for action.

Sabotage equipment and the weak equipment of the Channel resistance fighters in 1944

Presentation illustrating the sabotage equipment and the weak equipment of the resistance fighters in La Manche, in the spring of 1944

Armband of the local liberation committee of the commune of Portbail

Armband of the local liberation committee of the commune of Portbail

Two FFI armbands from a lot found in Picauville

Two FFI armbands from a lot found in Picauville

Galena radio station

Galena radio set, hidden in a box of cakes, after the confiscation of the radio sets in February 1944

French helmet repainted with a Cross of Lorraine framed by a V for Victory

French helmet model 26, whose roundel has been removed and which has been repainted with a Cross of Lorraine framed by a V for Victory, symbol of the FFI in combat, in the summer of 1944

Leaflet showing how to listen to the BBC

Leaflet indicating where and how to listen to English (BBC) and American radio waves

The American newspaper Warweek returns to the contribution of the Resistance to the Liberation

In September 1944, the American newspaper Warweek returns to the contribution of the Resistance to the Liberation, in the summer of 1944, in Normandy

Label of a crate of explosives

Label of a box of explosives, sometimes used by the Resistance, which stole stocks from quarries or construction sites.

Illustrated book for children and propaganda brochure

On the left: illustrated book for children, distributed in 1945 and paying homage to the maquisards.

On the right: Vichy propaganda brochure denouncing the Manouchian group and qualifying the resistance fighters as an “army of crime”

Leaflet written on the back of a chocolate wafer and found in Carentan

Tract of the Resistance written on the back of a chocolate wafer and found in Carentan, place de la République. “He who builds lavatories with his own hand, does more for humans than Pétain does for France

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