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France: Anti-German Resistance(1940-1944)

Last modified: 2005-04-02 by ivan sache
Keywords: cross: lorraine (blue) | resistance | forces francaises de l'interieur | vercors | letters: ffi (blue) | armband |
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Vercors maquis

Vercors is a limestone massif located in the French Alps. Vercors has a triangular shape, limited by the rivers Rhône (west), Drac (east) and Drôme (south). It stretches over the departments of Isère and Drôme. Vercors remained an extremely isolated area until the building of the 'vertigo roads' (routes du vertige), which were necessary for the exploitation of the forests of Vercors.

In 1942, French franc tireurs went underground and hid in the Vercors. When the STO (Service du travail obligatoire) was set up by the French government (16 February 1943) in order to provide workers for the German industry, the so-called réfractaires refused to obey and several of them joined the resistance movements, especially in Vercors. Resistance camps were established in the massif, which were not really attacked by the Italian occupation troops. When the Germans took the control of the zone formerly under Italian control, the situation hardly changed and the Resistance movements were able to control the few possible ways of access to the mountain.

The resistance movements was organized in Sassenage, near Grenoble, by a group of friends fond of rock-climbing, who had understood the strategical interest of Vercors. The writer Jean Prévost and the architect Pierre Dalloz met municipal councillors of Grenoble revocated by the French State (a lot of people who refused to pledge allegiance to Marshal Pétain were revocated). General Delestraint (1879-1945), the chief of the Secrete Army, approved the Plan Montagnards. According to this plan, Vercors should have been used as a bridgehead for the allied airborne troops.

In March 1944, the regular maquis of Vercors included c. 400 men, divided into two main groups. Following the Normandy landing, they were joined by more than 4,000 volunteers. On 15 June, a first attack by the Germans was blocked in Saint-Nizier. On 3 July, the Republic of Vercors was proclaimed and the French flag was hoisted. On 14 July, the maquis received a significant supply of arms and material landing by parachutes. In the meantime, the Germans sent 15,000 men, divided into two Alpine divisions, and started to surround Vercors.

On 21 July at 7 AM, workers preparing a landing ground in Vassieux welcomed a group of gliders and helped their landing. Unfortunately, the gliders were operated by SS commandos, who rapidly slaughtered the population of Vassieux and destroyed the village. The landing ground was then used by the Germans.
After three days of hopeless fighting, order of withdrawal was given by the chiefs of the maquis. Most fighters attempted to hide in the dense wood of Lente. The St. Martin's hospital was relocated into the cave of Luire, which was assaulted on 27 July. The Germans finished off the wounded and executed the two doctors and the priest. The two nurses were sent in deportation to Ravensbrück. Only one wounded cold escape by hiding in a narrow fault of the mountain. The Germans took reprisals against the civil population until the 19 August.

Vercors was awarded the title of 'Citadel of the Resistance' (Citadelle de la Résistance). Memorials of the Resistance were built in Vassieux-en-Vercors, la Chapelle-en-Vercors and in other places of historical significance.

[Republique du Vercors]by Ivan Sache

There are a few archive images made by the members of the maquis themselves. On a short footage, one can see the hoisting of the French Tricolor flag over the Republic of Vercors. The flag is clearly in proportions 1:2.

[Vercors maquis flag]by Ivan Sache

The Vercors maquis is commemorated every year. Images made during such a ceremony show a car decorated with a Resistance flag. The flag is a French Tricolor flag with a blue Resistance emblem in the white stripe. The emblem is made of a blue cross of Lorraine surmonting a V - most probably for Victoire rather than Vercors. It is not possible from the images to say that it was a genuine historical flag and not a reconstruction, but such flags were really used by the Resistance movements in France.

An unofficial motto of Vercors is 'We have forgiven, we shall not forget' (Nous pardonnons, nous n'oublions pas).

Ivan Sache, 31 August 2003


Maquis of Sylla

[Flag of maquis of Sylla]by Ivan Sache

The maquis of Sylla was set up in Burgundy, near the village of Cortevaix, located 10 km north of Cluny. Major Guy d'Artois, officer in the Canadian Special Operation Executive, was dropped by parachute in Cortevaix in 1944. The Major's nickname was Dieudonné but he was mostly known in the area as Michel le Canadien. He organized a maquis with 600 partisans and set up a 800 km phone network.
After the Liberation, Major d'Artois was awarded by General de Gaulle the highest military decoration of the Second World War, the Croix de Guerre (War Cross) with palms.

The flag used by the maquis of Sylla is shown in the Museum of the 22nd Royal Regiment in Canada. The flag was offered to Major Guy d'Artois by members of the Resistance as a tribute to his contribution and dedication to the French Resistance.

The flag of the maquis is a square French tricolor flag, following the model of the colours of the French Army, with the writing, in gold (or maybe silver?):

HONNEUR ET PATRIE
MAQUIS DE SYLLA
1944

Ivan Sache, 13 November 2004


Armband used in maquis

Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur (FFI)

[Armband of the FFI]by Ivan Sache

An armband of the Forces françaises de l'Interieur, preserved in Musée de l'Ordre de la Libération in Paris, is made of a tricolor flag with a blue cross of Lorraine and the blue letters FFI in the white stripe.

Ivan Sache, 20 August 2000


Ukrainian maquis

[Armband of Ukrainian maquis]by Ivan Sache

An armband of a Ukrainian resistance group, preserved in Musée de l'Ordre de la Libération in Paris, shows a diagonal yellow stripe in the blue stripe recalling the Ukrainian traditional colours.

Ivan Sache, 20 August 2000

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