French Resistance in Brittany 1944

When my wife, children and I first dipped our toes in the French property market in 2000, we purchased a quaint cottage in rural Coat Mael [near Carhaix in Brittany], well behind the German lines.

Our next door neighbours were a sweet old farming couple, well into their 80’s at the time. If we ever mentioned WWII to them they clamped up totally, and although we talked a lot about most general matters, their lips were absolutely sealed when the war was ever mentioned.

The house on the other side of ours had been “torched” in 1944, & was in total ruin, being just a big pile of rubble, unrenovated since 1945. We heard mutterings that the Germans had demolished this house, probably with the French family still in it at the time?

When playing cricket or football with our son in the lane next to the row of houses, if our ball went into the ruin, we would frequently see household artefacts mixed in with the bricks, stonework, rubble etc. This would bring a tear to your eye, having heard the probable sad end to which the “next door” family had suffered, having been accused of collaboration by the Germans.

My daughter Phillippa & I have always been intrigued by the horrors of WWI & WWII, but actually having a maison secondaire in the area where the French Resistance / SOE etc. etc. had operated, brought the horrors of war even more to life.

This was even more poignant, as my late father [Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Espley] was in charge of procurement of supplies [often illegally acquired from the "better off folk " around the UK, he told me shortly before he died!!] and their aerial distribution behind enemy lines in the days leading up to D-Day in June 1944.

My strong recommendation is for anyone in the group interested in what went on in the days before D-Day in Brittany [I’m sure similar books have been written about the goings-on in Normandy], is to read “The Next Moon” written by Andre Hue [a young French-Welsh hero, who wrote the book either side of the millennium, and unfortunaely he died just before it’s completion. The finishing touches were added by his wife and Ewen Southby-Tailyour, and has a foreword by Professor M.R.D. Foot].

It is a real page turner, and your stomach turns as you read what happened, was about to happen etc, as you feel that you too are oin the run with them, fromfield to field, ditch to stream, barn to barn, with Gestapo, White Cossacks & regular German soldiers, not to mention the dreaded snipers doing their best to wipe you out at any moment. There is even time for our hero to have some romance on his travels, and by the fact that the cover notes say he died less than ten years ago, lets the reader know there were some happy endings amongst all that killing.

A fascinating read, though a bumpy ride, but highly acclaimed by the critics.

Apologies for the length of this “review”. Anything much shorter wouldn’t have done the book justice. The ISBN number is: 0-141-011580-2. Published by Penguin at £7.99 [my copy!!] Amazon: Much better!

Interesting stuff! Our village Scrignac is famous for the fact that the communist resistance (who didn't do much until 44) assassinated the village priest Pere Perrot who was accused of being too friendly with the Germans. in fact after his death his supporters formed a unit in the German Army called the Bezen Perrot and fought back to Berlin. Then most "disappeared" and some turned up in Ireland where they were looked after by the IRA. Several were shot as collabos. You can find acres of stuff in Google. We are near the beaches where th RN ferried in and out, including Mitterand. A captain was Jane Birkin's father. There's a useful book on the SOE by Brooks Richards recently out, whose nephew I know.

I recently spoke with the directrice of the museum. She indicated items have been returned and thieves have been caught. Bravo. This is a nice museum and I recommend it highly.

I visited a long time ago - could be more than 10 years. It did seem as if run by amateurs/volunteers, but I was interested by the maps showing the balance of standing armies, GDP, population, etc., across Europe before WW2 and by the individual stories presented. Sorry to hear about the burglary, but there are positive recent reviews on tripadvisor

Here is a link describing the burglary at the museum. Bummer. When did you visit the museum, Vivien? Thinking of another visit soon.

I learnt a lot from this museum near Malestroit

I do live in Brittany, in the village of Scrignac, high in the Monts d'Arree. As one former member of the resistance told me that I would be surprised how few members there were before 1944. Many locals were communists and in the early days of the war were at least very open minded about which side to support. In fact our village became notorious, and many still don't like to talk about it. Type History of Scrignac in Google.

I met Geneviève Babin (née Pondard) at the retirement home in Vertheuil en Medoc, France. Although she was very ill, I showed her a picture of her father, Monsieur Pondard; her eyes lit-up, she smiled, and said "Papa." Mr Pondard is a legend in Serent and St. Marcel.

Homage to Geneviève Babin (née Pondard).

For those who have read "The Next Moon" by André Hue and Ewen Southby-Tailyour, you will know Geneviève and her sisters and the heroic acts in the Resistance (FFI) during World War 2. Geneviève was born on 6 mai 1922 and died in a retirement home in Vertheuil en Medoc, France on 9 avril 2013. A ceremony was held at the monument du Maquis in front of the farm "La Nouette" with veterans, mayors, family and friends in attendance. Her husband, Alexis Babin, and Geneiève are buried there.

The Pondard family were highly decorated by the French Government (Crois de Guerre, Médaille de Reconnaissance de la Nation, and numerous others). What is extraordinary is that they also received the "King's Medal for Courage" from King George VI of Great Britain. Geneviève received a King George Medal.

I am attaching only two photos; one of her marriage to Alexis Babin and one I took in 2011. The wedding dress in the photo was made of a parachute given to her by Colonel Bourgoin, another hero in the French Resistance.

Although we do not live in Brittany we are reminded of the Resistance here in our area of the Clunysois everytime we go to the hairdresser. It is on the street named Quatrieme Battaillon du Choc. After the Normandy landings all the resistance groups in this area combined with the regular army and were put into this battalion and one of our french friends father was in this battalion..

Our friend was the Mayor of his village and was warned by the gendarmerie that ETA was building up arms dumps in the area. Not a lot changes.

Phil, I've met three of the remaining four (one is deceased) women mentioned in "The Next Moon." Finished a photo-book. Thanks for your input.

Hi Michael, how is your progress in reading “The Next Moon”? Also please let me know when you have made your travel plans to Maelstroit, in case I can tweak mine to meet up with you. Best wishes, Phil

Hi Michael, Thanks for your update, and I’m glad the book has arrived. You are right, as there is only one Malestroit in that area, I think I had told you in a previous message that I was confused about TWO Callacs within about 20-25 miles of each other in Brittany…most confusing!

St. Marcel, Serent & Plumelec feature frequently in the book, and these little villages are pretty close to Malestroit, so the main war zones are easily reachable from Malestroit.

Keep in touch as I too may well be there in June, as I am sailing from Roscoff to Plymouth in mid-June, and if our times coincided, we could meet and look around for a few hours together.

I am not 100% sure of my timing, but it will be anywhere between 8th & 11th June, so unless that is way outside your planned dates, keep me up to date with your arrangements.

Taking a note of my mobile for texting or phoning JUST IN CASE!!

Phil Espley on 07845-893118.

All the best,


Hi Michael,

In reading “The Next Moon” I was initially very confused, because we lived near Callac, and no other town / village names seemed to fit in with the narrative.

It was only when I realised that there are TWO Callacs in Brittany, I realised that we lived closer to the more northerly of the two.

Hence my advice would be, on receipot of the book, use the [primitive] maps in the first few chapters to plan your trip. There is a lady who runs a rather diverse business through the SFN website, called “An English Rose In France” and if you “Google” her, you may get more of a flavour of the area as she lives in the Malestroit area of Brittany. This was the hub of activity in the book, and by coincidence, the day after I wrote my bit on the book, I discovered her site which had an equally flattering review of the same book. She also reviewed other books on the same subject. I am editing now as I have just looked up her name, as Rosalyn Chapman, and she and her site could be “traced” through SFN as she is a member of SFN.

As I mentioned in my original article, my daughter & I have extensively trawled that area and of the Normandy landings, as did a pal of mine last month.

My pal had asked my advice on an itinerary for Omaha Beach, and all other sites worthy of a visit. I will try & forward my original e-mail to him, on to you, as in 2-3 days you can cover a lot of the more significant areas.

Best wishes,


Hello Michael,

Sorry to be vague as I don’t know how locals would react if they saw you with a metal detector in any “sensitive” areas, but provided you did what you said, and asked permission for specific areas, you should be okay.

The authorities wouldn’t let you loose in any particularly “sensitive” parts if they thought there may be remains of perished soldiers still around. They still call these areas “War Graves” until they are sure there is nothing unsavoury around.

My daughter and I visited many parts of The Somme several years ago, and there are often small areas cordoned off here and there for this reason. Common sense and all that…

Good luck and keep me posted. Phil.