Paul McCue, the historian and a Trustee of The Secret WW2 Learning Network, was pleased and proud to have recently assisted Brigitte Williams of the Fondation de la France Libre with information, photographs and a model Lysander aircraft for the annually refreshed ‘vitrine’ in the foyer of London's Lycée Français in Kensington. This year it's marking the 75th anniversary of Jean Moulin's arrest and subsequent death in 1943.
Moulin was a hero of the French Resistance in World War Two who united the scattered elements of spontaneous activity against German occupation. He was born on 20 June 1899 in Beziers, south-west France, the son of a history professor. He enlisted in the army in 1918. but never saw action. After World War One, Moulin joined the civil service and rose rapidly to become in 1939 the Préfet, or regional administrator, in Chartres of the Eure-et-Loir département - the youngest holder of that office in France. Moulin's politics were of the far left, and in June 1940 he was arrested by the occupying German and tortured as a suspected communist. Moulin tried to commit suicide by cutting his own throat, but a guard found him and he was taken to hospital, where he recovered. By November 1940, the Vichy government ordered all elected left-wing officials to be sacked. Moulin, now recovered, refused to sack anyone and was himself dismissed from his post. From then on he devoted the remainer of what would prove his short life to resisting the Germans. In September 1941, he was smuggled out of France to London to meet Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French, and other exiled French leaders. In January 1942, he was parachuted back into France, to set up an organised Resistance movement. His code name was 'Max'. Over the following months, he achieved a great deal, supplying the Resistance movement with a centralised point of control, which helped them to link up with London and divide financial aid more easily. He also managed to bring together the heads of the three main Resistance movements: Emmanuel d’Astier de la Vigerie (Libération), Henri Frenay (Combat), and Jean-Pierre Lévy (Francs-Tireurs), as well as General Delestraint, the head of the Armée Secrète. Bringing these groups together was no easy task at a time of such high political tension. The unification of the Resistance was accelerated by the Allied landings in North Africa, and Moulin took advantage of this by merging the three main groups into the Comité Directeur des Mouvements Unis de la Résistance (MUR) in January 1943. At a decisive time in the fighting, Jean Moulin had succeeded in making these groups agree to come together under one command. In February 1943, Moulin and Delestraint had returned to London to see de Gaulle and while there de Gaulle presented him with his Croix de la Compagnon de la Libération. In March 1943 Moulin and Delestraint, accompanied by Christian Pineau, were returned to France by Lysander from Tangmere, but shortly after setting up the Conseil National de la Résistance in May 1943, Moulin was betrayed and captured on 21 June 1943.
He was interrogated by the Gestapo in Lyon and Paris and died, as a result of his torture, on 8 July 1943 while on a train taking him to Germany.
It may also be of interest that the Roll of Honour at the French Lycée in London includes three names which are also on the SOE French Section memorial at Valençay - Mennesson (Menzies), Byck and Pertschuk. For more information: www.paulmccuebooks.com/the-104-agents
There are more photos below, and this is one of several instances so far this year, when the Charity has proactively contributed to Jean Moulin commemoratiive initiatives -
MOULIN TO MELAY: 75th anniversary event held at the University of Chichester
MOULIN & MEMORY: 75 Years on