ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Hero Women in the French Resistance

Updated on June 29, 2017

"Ils ne passeront pas!"(they shall not pass)

The French Resistance: Is the term used to describe a group of active opponents of Hitlers Invasion of France during WW 2. The Resistance Movements fought the Nazi German Occupation of France and the collaborationist Vichy regime using clandestine methods. French Resistance included small squads of armed men and women (referred to as the Marquis,if they were based in the countryside), publishers of underground newspapers, and escape networks that helped allied soldiers.

In recent years some have stated that the French Resistance has not been afforded due recognition for its part in halting Hitler's march through France. However, in 1946 the Allied Forces gratefully acknowledged France's heroics and declared that the resistance was not only central to diverting Hitler's forces away from an easy route across the English Channel, but also that France's reclamation of Paris ensured German forces were without a strong base during the last stages of the war.

Another crucial contribution by the French Resistance groups in their cooperation with Allied secret services (see Office of Strategic Services and Special Operations Executive), was the providing of intelligence on the Atlantic Wall and coordinating sabotage and other actions to contribute to the success of Operation Overlord. The Resistance was pulled from all layers and groups of French society, from conservative Roman Catholics (including Priests), to Liberals , Anarchists, and Communists.

Berthe Fraser
Berthe Fraser

One of the greatest heroes, as they were all heroes of the French Resistance was Berthe Fraser.

BERTHE FRASER

To the unknowing eye, she appeared to be an average French housewife in her forties, going about her domestic errands in her hometown of Arras, France. Yet in truth, Berthe Fraser was one of the bravest women in the French Resistance, at the center of an underground network that saved the lives of many English agents and pilots during the years when the Nazis occupied France.

Berthe Emilie Vicogne was born in 1894 but became a British subject when she married an Englishman. Her husband told her story to an English newspaper:

Her first work was in 1940 when there were hundreds of British soldiers roaming around France. My wife started a movement which grew until it was a sort of underground channel. She sent dozens of British soldiers by devious means to the coast where they were smuggled to England. Yet this first phase of her dangerous work was to come to an end in 1941 when someone betrayed her and she was arrested by the Gestapo. She was imprisoned in Belgium for fifteen months and released in December 1942.

COURAGE & INGENUITY

No sooner had she got out than Berthe immediately contacted the officers sent into France from England, and embarked on a new phase of anti-Nazi activity, helping the Allies by supplying English agents with a complete support network of Resistance fighters. She looked after the foreigners, providing them with shelter, transport, and safe hiding places where they could engage in their clandestine missions. She arranged liaisons, transmitted vital messages, and took on the very dangerous role of courier, travelling far and wide by car, sometimes on foot, laden with documents, arms, and occasionally the dynamite required for sabotage operations.

Somehow she managed to evade discovery, collecting the supplies of weapons that were dropped by night at secret locations by British planes, hiding the vital goods in safe houses where they could only be released on presenting her signature.

Berthe had to go to great lengths to protect her English charges. Once, entrusted with the care of the well-known English agent Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas, known as "The White Rabbit," she arranged a funeral cortege to transport the senior officer, hidden inside the hearse. He says she was "one of the great Resistance heroines.... She worked impartially for any French or British organisation that needed her."

BETRAYED & TORTURED

Yet in February 1944 Berthe was once again betrayed, this time by one of the English agents whose life she had saved.

The Gestapo tortured her every day for 28 weeks, with the threat of death hanging over her head at every moment. She was publicly stripped and flogged in front of the Nazi troops, but nothing could break her determination to protect her colleagues. She spent over 6 months in solitary confinement, 24 hours a day, and still she refused to betray her friends in the Resistance and the English army. Finally, condemned to death, Berthe Fraser awaited execution with no hope of escape.

"THANK YOU, BOYS"

Unbeknown to Berthe, D-Day was imminent. The Allies were soon to invade Northern France on June 6th 1944; and as the hopes of France cautiously rose, her friends smuggled in notes of encouragement to keep her spirits up, written in a tiny scrawl on little shreds of ribbon, one of which read:

My dear friend, we embrace you tenderly and tell you to be brave. The hour is coming. In my opinion our friends must be arriving at the beginning of June, if we are to believe the whispers.

She was in the condemned cell when the English and American soldiers stormed the prison on 1st September 1944. As her liberators freed her poor, broken body from its chains she said: "Thank you boys, you are just in time."

She won many awards, including the George Medal, the Croix de Guerre, the Legion of Honour and the American Freedom Medal as well as the honor of a letter of thanks from Eisenhower.

Without the French Resistance the outcome of World War two might well have been vastly different.

Recommended Reading

How Angels Die, David-Michael Harding. 2011. ISBN 13 978-061550325

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      6 years ago from Queensland Australia

      let me know how you go in the meantime i try to think of other avenues

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      6 years ago from Queensland Australia

      You could try the Australian War Memorial site. Or French Embassies might have a link or resources that will trace the owner..

    • profile image

      Jane 

      6 years ago

      My friend (we are in North of England) has just acquired a silver plate with an engraving. It bears the name of a woman (Betty)and the thanks of the Loire Reseaux of the FFI, 1945. I came to your site hoping to find leads .... interesting. Any ideas?

    • profile image

      estelle 

      7 years ago

      Thank you, wonderful story - brave brave lady.

    • profile image

      Margaret Small 

      7 years ago

      I have just met a woman who was part of this movement when she was a young woman. It was an amazing journey for her. She still tells the detailed stories of this time in her life. I will read your story with the hopes of understanding it better....fascinating...

    • profile image

      emma 

      8 years ago

      Brilliant piece very useful for historians

    • Stacie L profile image

      Stacie L 

      9 years ago

      Lots of good information for us history buffs!

      =)

    • profile image

      Alison 

      9 years ago

      This is what we need to read about rather than fluff pieces about Sarah Palin who regularly betrays friends and country!

      Thank you Barry for telling us about this remarkable woman.

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      10 years ago from Queensland Australia

      thanks for reading it anyway !

    • profile image

      blah 

      10 years ago

      this is borrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)