1939-1945 The Resistance
© Claude Ragot

The Resistance in Mayenne

The 203 fallen of the Resistance in Mayenne

On Square Foch, in the centre of Laval, near the Monument aux Morts, is home to a stone monument paying homage to the Resistance fighters from Mayenne, either shot or deported to the camps.

In the hollow of the concrete base, 203 names are engraved on copper plaques. The Mayenne Resistance paid a heavy price, from the first acts of war to intelligence missions for Allied forces, in the organisation of the maquis fighters and supporting paratroops after the D-day landings, fighting for Liberation.

The postman of Saint-Sulpice

The Château and park of Rongère, the workshop of a master calligrapher, the towpath along the river Mayenne… The peaceful flowery village of Saint-Sulpice is a charming stop along your way, but it has a troubled history…

Here began one of the most significant episodes of the Resistance in WWII. On July 31, 1944, the postman, Adolphe Bouvet, leader of the local resistance, was arrested at his home (the old village café, currently 7 rue du Val-Fleuri near the church). He was tortured, and died of his injuries the next day, never giving up his secrets. A monument to his bravery stands in the cemetery.

On August 2, in Bazouges, Marcel Saulais was arrested, beaten and shot by the Germans in search of a large stock of arms. In the following days, more arrests were made. In Château-Gontier, the prisoners were tortured, and seven Were shot dead the night before the allies finally liberated the town.

The rue d’Audibon, where the executions took place, has become the rue des Martyrs de la Resistance and the monument of remembrance stands there.

The Gérarderie resistance

Several resistance units were organised in the spring of 1944 in different places around the region. Their mission was to disrupt the German army using weapons parachuted-in by the allies. On June 13, in Lignières-la-Doucelle, the Gérarderie group was attacked by the German police. The fire fight lasted for several hours. Although several fighters managed to escape into the forest, many others fell or were taken prisoner.

In the hamlet of La Fouchardière, on the site of the execution of these brave captives, a stone recalls their names. Nearby, a dirt road leads to the site of their camp. A bridge has today replaced the ford on the river, but the place still has a strong evocative sense of isolation and power. You can see the ruins of the farm where they took cover and a plaque bearing the names of those killed in combat. In the village, the Guetteur (“Watchman”) monument stands where the town hall and school were set ablaze by the Germans after the fight.

The Longest Day in Fougerolles

Fougerolles-du-Plessis is in the north-west of Mayenne, where Normandy, Brittany and the Pays de la Loire meet. Under the leadership of distant statesmen and regional leaders, the Resistance was particularly active here. On July 28, 1944, one week before the arrival of the Americans, the town nearly suffered the same fate as Oradour …

At dawn, the town surrounded, the Germans led all men between 16 and 50 years of age to the church square. Three hundred of them were held while searches and arrests were carried out. A cache of more than 15 tons of weapons was discovered. After several hours of anguish for the hostages and their families most were released, but fourteen prisoners were taken away. Four would be released later, six were taken to Germany and four Resistance fighters, including the group leader Julien Derenne, were shot on July 31 in Saint-Jean-du-Corail.

A stone commemorates these events on the Route des Dersertines.

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