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LA FERTE ALAIS – THE WAR YEARS : 1939 TO 1945

LA FERTE ALAIS – World War Two – 1939-1945

This text was translated by Mrs Samantha Westwood, whom I thank.

The Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia was announced on March 16th. Four months later Poland fell to Nazi Germany ; no prior declaration of war had been given. This event marked the beginning of World War II lasting from 1939 to 1945.

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The Liberation of Place du Cheval Blanc (White Horse Square)

On May 10th, 1940 the Wehrmacht invaded Belgium and Holland which, before the invasion, were theoretically neutral countries. The English and French expeditionary force raced to the aid of the Belgian army, but fell into the trap set by the Germans. Several days later, on May 14th, Panzers of three armored divisions of the General Heinz Guderian broke through into France from the south, on the route through Sedan (in the Ardennes).

The Germans rushed to the Somme to encircle the Franco-British forces. The results were catastrophic. Huge numbers of civilians driven from their homes, took to the roads heading south.

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By the end of May, between ten and twelve million people were forcibly on the move and 90,000 children had become orphaned during their flight from danger.

Paris finally capitulated on June 14th, 1940.

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Sodat Allemand à la Ferté Alais

On June 18th, 1940, the General de Gaulle, broadcasting from Radio-London, addressed the nation. « No matter what we are facing, the flame of the French Resistance must not, and shall never be, extinguished. »

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Some inhabitants of La ferté Alais showed exceptional courage and their memory shines to this day.  We hope that this article will do justice to their bravery and be a fitting tribute to them.

On June 15th, 1940 the Infantry Regiment of General BAZELAIRE took up position in the area. The following day on June 16th, 1940 they withdrew and retreated to the south bank of the Loire. On June 27th, 1944, a German railway convoy at Guigeneville came under aerial attack by British fighter bombers. A house was damaged as a result of several wagons exploding.

On the July 23rd, 1944, the main station of La Ferté-Alais came under aerial bombardment.

La Ferté Alais at War : The Resistance Movement from 1939 to 1945

The leader of the local network was Dr. SUBERCAZE, Mayor of the town, Knight of the Legion of Honor and Croix de Guerre.

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Le Docteur Subercaze Maire de la Ferté Alais

(Thanks to CORPUS HISTORIQUE ÉTAMPOIS )

On September 3rd, 1943, a Flying Fortress, finding itself in difficulty, crashed in Cerny. Many of its crew were rescued by the local network and repatriated to England. Mr René LEGER (future Mayor of La Ferté Alais) was tortured for having sheltered one of these English airmen ; he was subsequently deported to Ellrich. In 1945, he returned in a pitiful, skeletal state following liberation by the Americans of the camp at Bergen-Belsen to where he had been transferred following internment in Dachau.

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« Corine Sabot » – A Resistance Opération :

A parachuting drop zone was set up on the Tertre plateau near Marbois. In early 1944, the local group took delivery of containers of weapons and liaison officers. On July 4th, 1944, the B.B.C. broadcasted twice the code identifying the location of the drop area:

« His song tells me everything » (in French « Son chant me dit tout »), warned of the arrival of agents by parachute drops.

The infiltrations team went to the drop area to start what was known as the « Corine Sabot » operation.

The Germans, had been informed of the drops and were waiting in ambush. They opened fire on the first arrivals: André BRANCHE, (born July 15th, 1908 at La Ferté Alais) was shot down.

Georges HEREN, otherwise known as Moustique (Mosquito, in English) (born 24/11/1920 in Vrizy), went up to the Tertre to try to help his comrade as soon as he learnt of the disastrous arrival situation but he too fell under German bullets and was killed.

The outcome was atrocious. Two resistants were killed and of the twelve British agents who managed to parachute land, ten were captured by the Germans. Seven parachutists were executed in Beauvais Prison ; three others managed to escape. One survivor, Mr Herbert, a soldier of the 1st SAS Regiment joined the Interior French Forces at Vert le Petit.

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Georges HEREN                                                                 André BRANCHE
Change of street name from rue des Forges to rue André Branche

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The President has informed the Assembly that the association « Les amis d’André Branche and Georges Héren » has proposed that the street currently known as rue des Forges be renamed after André Branche and that this change be made visible by putting up a memorial plaque worded: « André Blanche 1908 – 1944 – Gave his life for Freedom ».The Council has unanimously adopted this proposal.

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Henri PIGEOLLET was decorated posthumously with the Resistance Medal.

A monument commemorating the « Tertre » was erected in memory of André BRANCHE and Georges HEREN who were both killed, together with seven Englishmen, during the Allied parachute drops. This monument is located on the departmental road.  On July 3rd, 2005, a statue created by sculptor Alex GARCIA, symbolizing the Resistance was inaugurated and each year on July 4th, the Municipality gathers together to pay tribute to the courage of its citizens.

On this Sunday, July 3rd, 2005, we are gathered together to inaugurate this monument as a tribute to the Resistance who fought oppression and as a tribute to the courage of those young people who gave their lives for freedom.

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We are gathered here today to keep the memory alive, for real death is the loss of those memories, it is forgetting the past. We are morally bound to ensure that the memory of these events shall never be simply consigned to history, that these memories shall be remembered and passed down by every generation.  Sixty one years have gone by. The Tertre plateau overlooking the village is still a windy place, bordered to the north by the woods, to the south by homes and there is a school farm which is visited every day by children, pupils, school children.

And walking past they will all see this bronze statue of a young man, perched on high, sporting his beret, marching with that determined step so indicative of the immense willpower and courage and determination to stand up against oppression.

The town of La Ferté Alais, its elected officials and its head representative, wanted this statue to be dedicated to the resistance of its citizens in humble acknowledgement of the sacrifice of the men, women and children indiscriminately mown down by the dark malevolence of man.

Alex Garcia was appointed to create this artwork based on looking ahead into the future, the « future », symbolizing the onward march of freedom and fraternity. This piece has been a great success. It is up to us now to ensure that our ideas continue to be in line with these principles and they they continue to be forward-looking. We must ensure that we instill the values of justice and tolerance. We must retain forever in our hearts the scent of rebellion, the perfume of freedom.

It is with a heavy heart that we unveil this statue today. It represents a soldier, so much more than that, a young man walking to war with neither weapon nor uniform, as was so often the situation of the Resistance fighters, volunteers, most often heading to war with nothing but improvised weapons, putting themselves in mortal danger, battling to maintain and enlarge the struggle for freedom ; they were its guardian.

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This monument is a trace of 1945, of the end of the war, of the end of years of oppression, a memory of the year that saw the removal of that unbearable burden borne by every citizen. This monument is a footprint in our history. We are free, here we are today, free, joy abounds.

 On behalf of our town I salute you

Philippe AUTRIVE

Mayor of La Ferté-Alais

July 3rd, 2005

The Resistance movement in La Ferté Alais during World War II (1939 to 1945) was represented by Louis MOREAU, Chief Resistance Fighter for the southern region of the Seine and Oise department. Arrested in 1944, Louis MOREAU died during deportation to Buchenwald.

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His operational command hierarchy was quite astonishing with a wide reach from Méreville to Juvisy sur Orge, traversing Milly, La Ferté-Alais, Arpajon, Montlhéry or Dourdan and Etampes.

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Louis Moreau is in the centre of the photo

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« Louis MOREAU was born on September 21st, 1988 in Saint-Junien near Limoges. He became a Primary School inspector in 1925 and arrived at Etampes in 1938 whereupon he took a oath of allegiance to the underground fighters under the code name Vincent and promptly put all his subtle intelligence to work for the Resistance.

Denounced on June 21st, 1944, Vincent had just moments to save the officer sleeping next to him before being arrested, imprisoned and tortured in Fresnes Gaol. He was taken to Compiègne where he was put on the final « death train » transported together with 117 other men in an airless, vastly overcrowded wagon, with no water to drink, unable to sleep or even lie down.

Of the 117 men in this wagon only 11 arrived at their destination, exhausted, but alive in Buchenwald. Louis MOREAU died on September 23rd, 1944 from torture and exhaustion ; he did not survive the horrific conditions of the German transport to the concentration camp. »

René CHAUMETTE, April 18th, 2003

The Primary School in the town centre has been named after Louis MOREAU

 « Mr. Moreau, this school, where we begin our education now bears your name. Every day schoolchildren come through this door to learn to read and write and study other subjects, they com for that very education which was and still is the unique barrier to the darkness into which you were plunged during the war. »

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Here it is notworthy that even cinema children left for the Château de La Michaudière, near La Ferté Alais.

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Château de la Michaudière – Paris in Octobre 1943 :

Below is an example of some of the decisions taken by the Town Council updating the population on state of conflict at La Ferté Alais

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Transport of Gas Masks

The President has informed the Council that the Prefect of Seine-et-Oise has confirmed that 783 civilian gas masks will be made available to the inhabitants of La Ferté Alais and can be retrieved in Versailles on December 1st, 1939 between 9am and midday.

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Prisoners’ Notebooks

The President has proposed to vote a sum covering the cost of issue of booklets to notebooks held within our commune.

The Assembly, after deliberation, has voted for a sum of ten thousand francs which will be carried over into the additional budget of 1944.

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Our grateful thanks to Mrs Pouché and Mr Pieuchot

The Assembly has decided on a letter expressing our thanks to Mrs Pouché and Mr Pieuchot for donations made to the townspeople of La Ferté Alais during the German Occupation.

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Renaming the Crossroads  

The President has informed the Assembly of the necessity to change the name of the Carrefour du Cheval Blanc (White Horse Crossroads) to « Carrefour de la Libération » (Liberation Crossroads). The renaming of this crossroads to Carrefour de la Libération will be inaugurated on 22 August 1945, on the anniversary of the liberation of our town. The Council has unanimously adopted this proposal.

Examples of Resistants and Fighters of La Ferté Alais during World War II

Some were stood down like Raymond OLIVIERI, on May 18th,1945.

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There are Resistants, whose names we dare not speak of even so many years later, for fear of forgetting others. Please forgive me for any mistakes, omissions or if I have have indeed forgotten or omitted to mention anyone.

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Raphael BOUILLON, at La Ferté, codenamed the « cantonnier, » gathered information from all his local colleagues and transferred this to Etampes. Bouillon said Raf was managing a very efficient cell, together with Doctor SUBERCAZE, Mayor, and the aforementioned Mr LIBAULT, secretary of the Town hall, stood down in 1940.

Mr MARTIN, deputy of BOUILLON who escaped from Germany and subsequently gave underground lessons in literature, history and geography. And then there were all the others like Mr BAZIN the grocer, Mr LEBON, the postman, a man who had been wounded and mutilated in the First World War, gifted in spiriting away the letters intended for enemy collaborators, living in La Ferté Alais.  There was Marcel LEMAITRE, owner of the restaurant « au pied de mouton », Victor VILAIN, Mr SEMETE, Gendarmerie lieutenant who rendered tremendous services. We know that he saved many lives in his area by warning people in advance of operations planned against them. After the war, Mr. SEMETE took over the Auvergnat café in Place Carnot.

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Monsieur Briastre

There was also the Marshal of Logis-chef BRIASTRE, Commander of the gendarmerie brigade of La Ferté Alais and who was a resistance fighter together with Commander PIEUCHOT. Neither must we neglect the great importance of Jacques Oudin’s role with the Resistance in the Ferrara region.

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Jacques Oudin

Jacques OUDIN, a volunteer, joined the group « Volunteers of Liberty » at the same time as Jacques LUSSEYRAN, then joined the « Defense of France » network, led by Philippe VIANNEY. Arrested for treason, he was subjected to torture, which he resisted, refusing to divulge information to the enemy. He was deported and died of exhaustion a year later on April 8th, 1945 in Ellrich (Germany). » http://jacques-oudin-resistant.fr/ Jacques LUSSEYRAN is the author of « And then there was light. » 

There are still so many others …  Mr PIEUCHOT, Resistance leader, at the Gué Mill, head of the « Vengeance » resistance movement, Gilbert BERLET codenamed « the Hairdresser, » who remained in hiding for 12 hours in a bush during the operation “Corine Sabot”; he witnessed the arrival of the parachutists, immediately killed by the Germans (the casualties included, 12 English officers: 7 shot, 3 escaped, 2 missing in action). And many more like Rene SERGENT, cooperatives manager,

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Robert Keller

Robert KELLER, an engineer with the Post Telephone Telegraph office, went into hiding at La Ferté Alais in 1943, did not survive deportation in April 1945, ; Pierre BEAUVAIS, died in captivity and was buried in the cemetery of La Ferté Alais (1914-1945).
Robert KELLER was condemned to death. His sentence was commuted and he was subsequently deported to a concentration camp. We found traces of him later at Struthof in Oranienburg and further on in Bergen-Belsen, where he had died of typhus in April 1945 ; Paris had long since been liberated and his camp was just about to be freed.

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The Liberation of La Ferté Alais – Arrival of the Allies

second_world_war-la_ferte-alais On Friday, August 18th, 1944, two or three jeeps and an American armored car arrived on the Pont de Presles road and stopped near the Villiers crossroads.

second_world_war-la_ferte-alaisFew inhabitants of La Ferté Alais were present at that moment, but the Mayor, Dr. SUBERCAZE, having been warned of their arrival, came with his wife to welcome the vanguard. It was a specialist reconnaissance patrol sent to identify the route to the Seine, passing by the road to Soisy. On the same day, inhabitants of La Ferté Allais put two young Waffen SS out of action by locking them in the cellar of an empty house. On the morning of August 22nd, 1944, a German unit of some 300 soldiers conducted searches. If a German officer had been shot, large numbers of enemy patrols entered houses in a great state of agitation searching for « terrorists » and took men away as hostages.
One hundred and fifty of these such men were taken by the Germans and held prisoner in the park of the Château de Villiers.

second_world_war_la_ferte_alaisDuring the search operation, a Spanish refugee attempting to hide was shot dead.

On that very day, the Americans arrived in the city. The head telephonist of La Ferté Alais, Mrs. Fernande FRAYSSE, had succeeded against all odds in reaching an American patrol by telephone. Guided by the IFF, the Americans took the park of the castle by surprise and freed the hostages. A brief skirmish followed at the entrance to Baulne. Most of the Germans fled.  Some fifty of them were captured by the IFF.

second_world_war_la_ferte_alaisGeneral Philippe LECLERC presides over the capture of weapons at the Carrefour du Cheval Blanc since renamed Place de la Libération.

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Mrs Fernande FRAYSSE On August 21st, 1994, the town of La Ferté-Alais paid tribute to Mme FRAYSSE by affixing a commemorative plaque near the church where the old post office (18, Notre Dame Street) had been located:

« Here on August 22nd, 1944, our grateful thanks to the courage and presence of mind of Mrs. Fernande FRAYSSE, telephonist who enabled the swift arrival of American troops thus saving the lives of 197 hostages and preventing the destruction of the city by enemies’ guns. The people of La Ferté Alais give thanks and shall not forget.

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Madame FRAYSSE  –  First on the left

The Mayor and Mr Gérard Fraysse unveiling the memorial plaque on the façade of the former post office (the post office during the war period).

second_world_war_ferte_alaisA posthumous tribute was bestowed upon Mme FRAYSSE, née ALLIANCE, born on July 29th, 1912 in Paris, and who died on January 5th, 1985. She was  awarded the title of Citizen of Honor of the town of La Ferté Alais on December 3rd, 2005. A street has been named after her.

A TRIBUTE TO THE MEMORY OF THE TELEPHONIST OF LA FERTE ALAIS- Mme FRAYSSE

 « On the morning of August 22nd, 1944, the village of La Ferté Alais was invaded by a German unit. Grenade attacks were carried out by partisans around Gatine against the occupying army trucks and numerous German patrols retaliated by forcing their way into houses to search for and arrest local men.

The German Kommandantur was located at that time in the « Les Marquises » building opposite the former Post Office (now a medical practice).  Madame FRAYSSE, who was on the telephone at the post office, realized that local men had been rounded up and taken to the castle of Villiers at Cerny where they were due to be executed by firing squad.  Madame FRAYSSE managed to get hold of Boissy just in time to warn them of what was about to take place in the village.

Calling a second time from Boissy Le Cutté she managed to reach the American army and insisted that they come as quickly as possible to rescue the men who were about to be executed. She also warned them that guns had been posted all around the entrance to La Ferté-Alais. Finally, summoning all her courage, Madame FRAYSSE managed to remove a fuse from the telephone line specifically reserved for the Germans, thus cutting off their communication with the outside world. All conversations between Mrs Fraysse and the allies took place under the very noses of the Germans present in the post office. For Madame FRAYSSE, anxious and afraid, it was vital to ensure that the Americans clearly understood the imminent mortal danger faced by the hostages. She was determined to prevent, by whatever means she could muster, the Germans being able to communicate with the outside world.

This is how the Americans were able to take took the Germans by surprise and cause their panicked flight from the park of the Château de Villiers in Cerny; they arrived just in time to save the lives of the 197 hostages.
In memory of Madame FRAYSSE’s bravery in standing up to the army of occupation, we are honored to award her, posthumously, and with our deepest gratitude, « The Medal of The Town ». This has been accepted, on her behalf, by her son Gerard. » 

Philippe AUTRIVE, Mayor

(Speech of December 3rd, 2005)

The Hostages of the Château de Villiers during World War Two

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Unique documents courtesy of Mr Raymond MANTOVANI, a hostage of the Germans.

As a will, Mister Raymond MANTOVANI has just died at night from Sunday, July 16th and had just sent me this text, translates by Mrs Samantha Westwood, whom I thank.

Children digging the trench at the Château de Villiers in August 1944.

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Map of the Château de Villiers in 1944 by Mr Raymond Mantovani

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The cannon was in the enclosure of the material recovered by the Americans (6’). We got obtained it from the French Army inside a basket covered by tomatoes and about two dozen eggs. We rolled it inside a shed. The rockets were then taken by the Military.

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Mr Raymond Mantovani (left)

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Children digging trenches at the Château de Villiers de la Ferté Alais

Children from Argenteuil staying at the Château de Villiers in La Ferté Alais in 1944

In 1944 I spent five months in the Château de Villiers, from April to September with between 100 and 110 other youngsters in summer camp. We were not away on holiday, but had been removed to a safe distance from the bombing of towns around Paris. Most of us had come from Argenteuil.

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 We lived through the liberation of La Ferté Alais and some of us even took part in it. raymond_mantovani_second_world_war_ferte_alais

We were witnesses to this unforgettable event.

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In the Château de Villiers our routine was as follows :

Lessons in school in the morning and afternoon, then at 4pm we had free time. We worked on the vegetable garden as you can see in the photograph.

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The lad doing the high jump is me.

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We were the hostages in fact.

Raymond MANTOVANI, June 15th, 2016

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The monument to the dead from 1939-1945 created by Maximilien FIOT and Marble sculptor, Jules MENET, bears the following names:

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A.BRANCHE, A.BUQUET, P.CLEROY, P.PARADIS, J.PEREIRA, A.SAKKAS, G.HEREN.

We shall now give the floor to Mr. J. M MENET, a citizen of La Ferté Alais, President of the Veterans in 1975 and listen to his speech:

 

«To you, fighters of the years 39-45, to our young brothers, sons and nephews, to those who have shown honor, like us, in battle, to you the too often “invisible” soldiers of the true Resistance, to you the objectors and Maquis from the Channel to the Mediterranean, to you who crossed the Rhine, conquerors of Germany, to you, the fighters of North Africa in our land, to you the fighters of the free forces in Africa and in Italy and to you our liberators having returned once again to stand with their veteran comrades in our homeland. It is a source of great joy for them to be with you once more, to work once again alongside you, to share their experience with the new generation of forces, to ensure the handover has been effected properly, when, chance survivors of the unequal hand of destiny will have joined their brothers, your fathers, fallen in the heat of battle, in sacrifice and glory.”

The Patton Army tanks rolled across the city for a week.

On August 24th, 1944, Paris was liberated by the 2nd Armored Division of Leclerc and by the Resistance.

raymond_mantovani_second_world_war_ferte_alaissecond_world_war_ferte_alais second_world_war_ferte_alais « We are free: end of August 1944 ».

René Chaumette

On behalf of our city, I offer our thanks to all our men and women for their courage and spirit of resistance during the tragic events of World War Two. These pages torn from our history, are but a brief repository, symbol of our duty to safeguard its memory and ensure it remains in the collective memory of those by generations yet to come..

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Mayor of La Ferté Alais (2001 – 2008)

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippe_Leclerc_de_Hauteclocque

This dedication conveys the warmest wishes of Marshall LECLERC to Madame Simonne AUTRIVE, member of the Resistance. It is also a brief reminder that between 1948 and 1953, General de Gaulle fought hard against party regime and the policy of erasure of France in that period. During his numerous travels and through his speeches and press conferences General de Gaulle called incessantly for the recovery of France (on February 8th, 1948, the day of his arrival at La Ferté Alais, General de Gaulle had endured the terrible pain of loss, the death of his daughter).

RECEPTION OF GENERAL DE GAULLE

The Mayor has informed the Council that on February 8th, 1948, General de Gaulle will be visiting La Ferté Alais. He wishes to make it clear that this visit is not of a political nature and that it will be carried out in all simplicity.

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It is interesting to note that some scenes from the film « The Longest Day » were filmed in La Ferté Alais:

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Humanity 1904-2004 « Le Journal du Centenaire »

Memory space in Essonne 1939-1945,  Éditions SCEREN – Éducation Nationale

The Republican Newspaper, 22/08/1991 and 17/07/1997

René CHAUMETTE :  History of primary education

Sources : The Thread

Photos courtesy of Mr. BEIRENS and LAPI / Roger-Viollet

Le Parisien, Mme Fraysse, August 2014

Photographs Mr. BRIASTRE site: http://www.mennecy-et-son-histoire.com/La

Photographs Mr Jacques OUDIN  site: http://jacques-oudin-resistant.fr/

Le Républicain Newspaper

The photo gallery

©Copyright 2009 Philippe AUTRIVE – All Rights Reserved