An Historic Collection of French Resistance Artefacts
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About this item
A superb and unique collection of two Brassards obtained some thirty years ago from the son of René Duchez, a prominent figure in the French Resistance in the Caen area of Normandy who stole a set of plans which showed the defences of Hitler's Atlantic Wall and managed to smuggle them to London.
The collection comprises, his DP (Defence Passive) Brassard and was worn by him while working as a painter and decorator in the Org Todt building in Caen during which time he managed to steal and conceal an important set of drawings of the planned fortifications for the Normandy section of the Atlantic Wall. He was later able to retrieve them from a hiding place in the offices and send them to England concealed in a biscuit box aboard a fishing boat. The collection also includes one of his FFI brassards dated August 1944 and worn by him after the Normandy landings, a book entitled “Ten thousand eyes” by Richard Collier which, whilst making multiple mentions of Duchez, describes in detail in chapter seven the full story of the theft of the plan along with a picture taken in the fishing boat showing the biscuit tin containing the map on its way to London. Also included is a copy of a “then and now” magazine which includes a picture of Duchez.
He was a member of the Caen group of the "Centurie" network, which was itself a branch of the OCM (Organisation Civile et Militaire) resistance movement, created in 1940. The "Centurie" network acted as an intelligence service and covered nearly the whole of France; its local head was Marcel Girard, who was responsible for Normandy and the western regions of occupied France.
The Caen group was composed of about forty people. In 1942, the Germans started building the Atlantic Wall, and after the failed Dieppe landing in August, London asked the network to obtain information about ways the Wall could be crossed. The group collected many informative items, namely about the gateways and the chicanes. René Duchez was a member of the group and his wife forged papers that allowed the resistance to gain access to the works. To be at close quarters with the Germans, he applied for a painting job at the kommandantur, obtained it, and managed to steal the plan of the Cotentin region while showing wallpaper samples. He hid it behind a mirror and came back later to retrieve it under the pretext of carrying on with the painting job.
The stolen document indicated very accurately the position of all the defences, shelters, underwater obstacles, beach barriers, passages, phony mine fields, etc. It was taken to London in the fishing boat by colonel Rémy and handed to MI-6. The plan was critical in preparing the landings in Normandy. Meanwhile, the Caen group went on gathering information: more than 3,000 documents were sent to London, all dealing with the Atlantic Wall.
René Duchez and his wife were eventually found out by the Gestapo. René managed to escape, pretending to be a displeased customer who happened to be at Duchez's home. His wife was arrested, questioned to no avail, and deported to Ravensbrück. She came back after the war and died in 2005. René carried on his action, and organized resistance movements in Normandy, but more than half the members of the national network were shot or died in concentration camps.
A unique and truly historic collection which will be accompanied by a signed certificate of authenticity.