16 février 1944 : le Pont Lasveyras

Rédigé par Alain dans la rubrique Lieu de mémoire , Pont Lasveyras

The following is a translation from "Bataillon Violette" by Capitaine Fred published in 1975 and recently re-published.

Le Pont-Lasveyras

Close to the villages of Beyssenac in the Correze and Payzac in the Dordogne, there is and old mill called Moulin de la Forge-de-Pissac,  known locally as Moulin du pont-Lasveyras, named after a stone bridge dating from the middle ages a few hundred metres from the mill.
There were two buildings at the location, with two huge mill stones which were still working up until the first world war. The buildings were seperated by a courtyard, a large house and some old willow trees covered in ivy which rustled to the rhythm of the seasons and amplified by the rolling water of l'Auvezere.

A local man, Doctor Dutheil, based in Limoges, had bought the mill and the land surrounding it before 1939 to use as a holiday retreat in the summer. He had stayed there several times with his family when the weather had been good but in the last two years had not been there and all appeared abandoned.

Raoul Audrerie
Raoul Audrerie of the AS Violette knew that the owner hadn't visited the mill for a long time and also that he was a Notaire in favour of the Vichy regime.
Raoul told Violette (René Tallet), commander of the bataillon about the mill and together they went over to see the place and found it very favourable as a hide-out and refuge big enough for several groups of Maquis. 

At the end of 1943 resistants were arriving from all over the place and all the farms in the area were at the point of saturation, even more as the S.T.O. (Service Travail Obligatoire) came into force.With many parachute drops of arms announced, it would be possible to arm all of them and many units for guerrilla warfare against Les Boches.

René Tallet "Violette"
The mill and its surroundings was an excellent choice for its wildness and security. There was no road as such  to get to it, just a path towards the Pont-Lasveyras, and another even less practical, towards the Moulin de Deux-Eaux nearby on l'Auvezere. With some look-outs and well placed sentry posts all risk of a surprise   would be eliminated. An attack of any grand size in such a wooded and remote place seemed unlikely to succeed.

So, it was decided that a camp would be set up as soon as possible.In the meantime materials and hundreds of military uniforms stolen from a workers depot near Saint-Medard-Excideuil were transported to the mill.
Towards the end of january 1944 there were two complete groups at the mill. One commanded by 'Jeantou' (Jean Delage) who was only 22 years of age. The other under the orders of Guy Lachau who had come with a group from Excideuil. Lachau was his 'nom de guerre', real name Raymond Pivert, the nephew of Raoul.

Raymond Pivert
Life at the mill was full on for the maquisards. During the day there were patrols and expeditions to find supplies and arms. Everywhere they were given whatever arms people had, notably old rifles and revolvers. What lacked however as ammunition.
They had to return late in the evenings as it was necessary to make their way down to the mill without using any roads. They were exhausted but happy to be true soldiers.
In the evening of the 15th february there were less people at the mill than usual. Pivert had left for the hospital at Clairvivre (used regularily by the résistance).
Life at the mill was full on for the maquisards. During the day there were patrols and expeditions to find supplies and arms. Everywhere they were given whatever arms people had, notably old rifles and revolvers. What lacked however as ammunition.sistance) to have an operation. Some of the men were suffering from flu and others were in recuperation too far away to get back that evening. It was snowing and there was a strong wind in the valley of l'Auvezere.

The following is an account by 'Catalan' - Roger Delon on the tragic events of the day that followed :

"I had joined the maquis of Raoul in december 1943. I joined with a few friends and together we stayed at a farm in the area of Payzac. After that we went to stay at the mill around the 3rd or 4th of january.

The food was perfect, we made an excellent vegetable soup, we never lacked meat or bread. Jeantou was our leader.

Raoul visited often. We all got into line and stood to attention when he arrived. One day he turned up with a tall slim fellow with frizzy blonde hair. I only found out afterwards that it was Violette.

During the day we practised military operations and we often went out on expeditions.

On the evening of the 15th of febuary I had been on patrol and hadn't returned until 2 o'clock in the morning. I went to sleep in the attic above the kitchen.

It was almost daylight when I had been woken by machine gun shots. We couldn't see anyone outside. My fellow camarades were saying "who is it?" and someone replied "it's the milice!", others said "it's the boche!".

I got up immediately and grabbed my gun and from a window I shot at whatever I saw moving. I only shot a few times as our supply of ammunition was low.

Next, they pounded us with mortars. Towards mid-day we had no ammunition left. At this moment the boches came closer, so from the window we threw grenades out at them. Some on our side had been killed, others seriously wounded.

The mill the day after the massacre
The boche shouted to us to surrender otherwise it would only get worse for us.
It was at this point that one of us held a white hanky at the window and those that could walked out from the building. If any of us did not have our hands in the air they were beaten.
Then, they entered the house and the mill and we heard the cries of the injured as they were shot.There were about forty of us, we kept our hands in the air and we were hit with the butts of their rifles.

They made us lay down around a tree and insulted us in German. We were then made to lay flat on our stomachs with our hands crossed behind our heads.

Albert Brun
Amongst us was a maquisard with a deformed arm called Brun. As soon as he was noticed he was shot dead, no doubt for pleasure because he was disabled. They killed 'Coeur de Lion' our cook because he was wearing an apron.

Then an Officer wearing a coat with a fur collar questioned us one by one. He was with a civilian who, in my mind must of been french as he did not speak. The questions went like this,
"Where are you from?"
"Why are you here?"
"Who instructed you to come here?"
If we didn't respond quick enough two or three soldiers hit us.

This lasted about an hour. They then told us to get into three lines. The first were taken to the edge of the river, the second to the middle of the little esplanade, the third taken to the foot of the hill.We were ordered to lay on the ground, face down and still with our hands crossed behind our heads.
I was in the second row. At this point they killed Farou because he lifted his head. They then shot some others because they moved. We thought that they were going to kill us all.

I stayed there not moving for an hour. It was terrifying. They stood near us talking to each other. They kicked us and demanded "Who is in charge?" - No one spoke in spite of the kicks.Eventually Jeantou got up and said "It's me, I'm in charge".

They led him away and we thought he was being taken away to be shot. In fact, they drove him to the outskirts of Payzac to get him to tell them where the supplies and vehicles were kept, if there were any. This is what Jeantou had told us in the days that followed.

Next, they ordered the second row, the row I was in, to stand up. There were twelve of us. They ordered us to carry their weapons and boxes of ammunition up to the route de Pompadour where they had left their trucks. When we got there I heard gun shots and cries - the boches had massacred the two rows that had remained down at the mill.
In the evening as it became dark we were made to get into their trucks. They drove off with us and went through Payzac, we got out later in the night at the prison at Limoges.

The next day all we were given to drink was some water. The milice kept guard on us. Interrogations commenced that morning in the offices of the prison. We were taken one by one and hit with a whip. Jeantou had been beaten up so badly that Maury had to help carry him out of the room.

On the 26th of february we were taken by coach to the railway station at Limoges. We were placed in a wagon, there were still twelve of us plus Jeantou, 13 in total coming from the Pont-Lasveyras. We left the following day to a camp at Compiegne.

On the 26th of april a train had been put together containing 1,800 deportees - 120 per wagon. It took us to Auschwitz in Poland. The journey took four days, we arrived there on the 1st of may. There were people of all ages in the wagons, some had died during the journey, others were going mad.

We were held for some hours, we were counted and re-counted. We were unable to stand on our feet because we were so weak.

Then, we were all stripped, disinfected and then tattooed, my number was 185,458. We were then dressed as convicts.

A while later I left the camp at Auschwitz and was taken to a camp at Ellritch and every day taken down a tunnel to an underground factory. I was there for six months. Afterwards I was taken to stay in other concentration camps.

I was liberated on the 2nd of may 1945".

That was the account of Roger Delon. Seen from the side of the germans, it was an operation against some terrorists, mounted from information received and a complete success.

Information received, who had given it to them?

Pierre Chazarin
From the start, the rumour going round pointed to the doctor Dutheil, the owner of the mill. The fact was, on the 16th of febuary the Germans had not particularly damaged the mill or the house making people think that perhaps an order had been given to respect the buildings and its surroundings. Normally the Germans would have ransacked and burnt to the ground any place that had been used as a refuge by maquisards.

The doctor Dutheil was obviously aware of these rumours and he left the region after it was liberated and moved abroad to South America. It's not known if he ever confessed to any responsibility.

The information that the Germans had was very precise. It would not have been difficult for them to obtain an ordnance survey map of the area around the mill, but it would have to have been necessary to know where the two posts were that were guarding the surrounding area, one to the north towards Le Moulin de Deux-Eaux, the other to the east at the farm de la Forge. It would have been necessary especially at night, that they were guided.

There is proof that the Germans were guided by two Frenchmen, agents of the Gestapo, the same people that found the punishment they deserved the following day at Sarlande.

Laguionie René, Brun Albert
The two warning bells installed, one near to Deux-Eaux, the other at Villouvier had not functioned and the two look-out posts had simply been passed by the first Germans without making any noise.

One of the look-outs who was positioned 400 metres downstream from the mill was later found with his throat cut after being surprised and attacked with a knife.

The Germans responsible for the attack were composed from a Battalion from a garnison at Limoges, where the proposed attack had been a well kept secret. Four companies had left during the night by different routes with its own objective - one to disembark close to Deux-Eaux and move along the river, another to come from the south from Payzac. The other two companies only arriving later, being responsible to form a barrier around the attack and to stop anyone trying to escape.

Doctor Lacote
A doctor living nearby - doctor Lacote had heard the initial explosions and rushed down to the mill but was not allowed through the barrier even though he was showing his carte de Medecin. He tried ten times at various points to get through but was refused every time. The germans showing that any soul they had was dead, leaving the injured maquisards to die. The doctor would have to try again later in the evening.

Raoul was informed of the attack but was away from the mill, as quick as he could he rounded up a few comrades but sadly there was only one machine gun between them. They made there way down to the location and entered the woods towards the river, north west of l'Auvezere. With him was Sieb Victor 'Napoleon', Marc, Nene Blanchard from Excideuil and Cadieu with Beylet, a hairdresser, these were the only men at his disposal. He waited for Violette who he had managed to contact earlier that morning. He joined Raoul before mid-day armed with a machine gun but no extra men.

First of all they got themselves into a concealed position and then waited for the right time for a counter attack.

The two German companies down at the bottom of the valley had not yet completed their sinister task. Commands, cries and explosions could still be heard and there was smoke coming from the mill.

His heart gripped by emotion, Violette listened and scrutinized the ravine.

Raoul who had a pair of binoculars passed them over to the man next to him and said "What is that guy doing down there in the meadow coming from Villouvier. He seems to be making a sign at us, look". Violette with eyes like a hawk had seen him too and shouted out "It's l'Eclair, it's Chartrain".

It was indeed Chartrain, a gendarme at Lanouaille but his heart firmly with the maquis and who had informed and aided Violette in a whole of manner of things. After the Liberation he was awarded la medaille de la Resistance and was for many years secretaire de l'amicale des anciens du 3eme Bataillon Violette.

That morning he had received a visit from Monsieur Gardes, postmaster at Lanouaille and whose son aged 19 was in the maquis at the Pont -Lasveyras. (He was one of those killed that day).

Paul Chartrain
M. Gardes had said to Chartrain "The post mistress at Angoisse has just telephoned me and said that some trucks full of German troops had passed through this morning before dawn, coming from Saint-Yrieix by the route nationale. They turned at La Croix-de-Malavaud and went in the direction of Payzac. My wife and I think that they are going to attack le Pont-Lasveyras where our son is".
Chartrain responded simply - "I'm going there".

He put on his civilian clothes, got on his bike and peddled as fast as he could to Payzac. Once there, understanding straight away what had happened he made his way down to Mas, a farm at the top of the valley in front of the mill.

Once there he got into a position where he could not be seen and observed what was going on down at the mill.

Towards 2 o'clock Chartrain noticed the two groups of Violette and Raoul on the other side of the river. It was at this point that he went down into the meadow in front of them. Hidden in part by a hedge, he started to signal to them in morse.

Raoul translated "Place yourself facing the road, shoot in a row if possible, will signal when".

Violette and others set up behind a big hollow chestnut tree about 600 metres from the Germans.

At 3.30 Chartrain could see clearly the germans gathered close to the trucks. At this moment he signalled "Shoot". They opened fire with continuous fire as long as they could with the two machine guns.
The kitchen: Photo taken the day after the massacre
The Germans were caught out and overwhelmed. Later that evening more than thirty opened and empty packets for bandages were found where the truck had been.This is an account by Chartrain of what followed -

"Once the last german truck had left I saw M. Gardes and his wife arrive, as well as Nouaille from Payzac who said to us - "I am going to look for Bourbon over at Germinac, he knows the paths to the mill, he will be able to take us down there". We waited for a while and when the two men arrived we went down.

It was nearly dusk when our little group arrived at the mill. Personally, I thought that the unfortunate victims had been shot like rabbits.

Yves Crouzy
The Germans had built a big fire that was still burning and had thrown some guns and equipment onto it.We turned over the bodies and felt them to see if they were cold. At that moment Nouaille called me over to where he was standing and said "There is one here who is not so cold as the others".

He was face down and was not moving. Nouaille turned him over and sat him up. At this point we noticed him let out a sigh. Bourbon's father spoke to the man in the local dialect "Have no fear my friend, it is not the boches who are here, we are frenchmen here to help you".

He opened his eyes, he was alive.

It was Cubertafond. He had injuries all over his body. Notably he had a smashed jaw. The 'death-blow' had been a shot in his right shoulder blade, the injury was still bleeding badly.

Professeur Fontaine and his team at Clairvivre
We took him over to Germiniac and Doctor Lacote came with us. He bandaged him up, gave him some injections and took him in his car over to Clairvivre (the hospital which looked after so many resistants at that time).

Later in the night the doctor took him over to La Chapelle near Payzac as the hospital at Clairvivre were unable to guarantee his safety. It was necessary to find somewhere safe for him with a bed.

Monsieur Devaud, Maire of Savignac-Ledrier went and knocked on a few doors. The doors stayed closed. Finally he knocked at the door of an old couple, probably the poorest in the commune and on opening the door they said "W'ed be happy to give a bed to this 'enfant', it's the least we can do for him". The couple got up from their bed and slept that night on a mattress in front of the fireplace as their house only had one room.

M. and Mme Gardes were distraught and desperate to find their son. Finally they found him face down near the river.

In the early hours of the next morning I returned to the mill. Some neighbours and some parents were now there. It was snowing and they were cleaning the faces of those who had been shot.

In the end we were able to identify 32 of the victims. A 33rd had not been recognised, nobody knew who he was.

A month later on the 16th of march the body of Peyramaure was found amongst the silt of l'Auvezere.
This made 34 victims. Of the 12 who were deported only 7 returned. So, in total 39 had lost their lives, of whom most had only been around 20 years of age.

To complete, I must add that Audor Parigot, I never knew his profession, had that day been able to save himself. He had jumped into the river as the germans shot at him but all the bullets had missed. He was carried away by the current but was able to get out of the river and hide until it became dark.

Parigot was well known to AS Violette. He had spent his time as part of a 'groupe franc' and loved to recount how he had evaded death - "On the day of the massacre at le Pont-Lasveyras I was saved like a rat!".

Another guy, Joubertie (part of le groupe Crapaud) had been able to get across the river and ran into a nearby copse. Even though he had been shot many times and was losing alot of blood he managed to get to le Moulin de Deux-Eaux where a miller looked after him and hid him.

Roger Joubertie
The next day, the 17th, I put ony my gendarmes uniform and took all the initiatives that were necessary. I hadn't received any orders from my superiors but everyone was alongside me.

As there was no road as such to get down to the mill the bodies were brought out on a cart and then were taken by truck to the old Mairie at Payzac.

A chapel had been organised by Doctor Leclerc who was the Maire of the commune.

On saturday the 19th of february we buried the bodies.

That morning a large german detachment arrived at Payzac. I introduced myself in my military capacity to the SS Colonel who was in command. He spoke french well. He had posted on all the roads men with machine guns ready to shoot.

Standing in front of the church he said to me "I will only allow one person per 'terrorist', the father or the mother. In disbelief I replied "My Colonel, it is a bit difficult to choose between the father or the mother as they are here together as one".

He took some time to consider and then obviously irritated said "OK, the father and the mother, that's all".

That was the account of Chartrain.

I have translated the above from 'Bataillon Violette' by Capitaine Fred, published in 1975 and recently re-published in 2011. All profit from the sale of the book goes to the upkeep of the monuments erected in memory to the Bataillon Violette and its members morts pour la France.

Each year on the 16th of february at 3pm a commemoration is held at le Pont-Lasveyras in honour of those who were killed. In the summer of 2009 a museum was opened in the old mill, its opening hours I believe are 2pm - 5.30pm saturdays and sundays in July, August and september. Entrance - free. There are occasional but rare exceptions when the commemoration is held on a day close to the 16th so it is probably best to check each year.

The following is a list of all those at Le Pont-Lasveyras on the day of the massacre. I have used the list of names found at the back of 'Bataillon Violette', the account of Roger Delon also from the book, the list of names in the annexe of  'Resistants du Perigord' printed in 2011 and the names that are found on the plaque on the monument at Le Pont-Lasveyras. In 2008 the plaque which had been added to the original monument in the past was updated and 4 changes were made, notably the addition of Albert Borderie whose death on that day had not been confirmed until a few years ago. In fact I have seen some official documents dated 1945, 1946 and 1959 which have come to light in the recent past and attest to Albert being one of the victims of the 16th february 1944.

34 Shot dead at Le Pont Lasveyras16th february 1944 (24 in cold blood)

Paul Elie Gilbert BITARD
Albert Jean BORDERIE ('X...  unidentified' on previous plaque on the monument)
Albert BRUN
Pierre CHAZARIN 'Bricard'
Maurice DAMIS
Robert Aime DELAGE
Jacques DUBOUE 'Rabouin'
André Marcel DUPUY
André Eugène Joseph ENAULT
Francois Louis Charles Pierre ENAULT
Jean Gabriel Mathieu GARDES
Raymond GATINEL (cousin of Pierre Missegue)
Hermann GELBERGER 'Henri'
Joseph LE JALU
Jean Marcel LOSEILLE
Pierre Louis MADRONNET
Pierre Henri MISSEGUE (his body was never formally identified)
Henri Joseph Albert PEYRAMAURE
Raymond Georges SIMON 'Coeur de lion'
Robert SOUDEIX 'Courgnolle' and 'Spada'

3 Survived or escaped from the massacre

CUBERTAFOND - was left for dead by the germans but survived
JOUBERTIE Roger - was shot several times but managed to escape
AUDOR 'Parigot' - managed to evade bullets and escaped

12 Deported (1 died during deportation and 4 died in concentration camps) 

Louis BARON - On original plaque of monument as died in concentration camp / his name is no longer on monument
André BARTOU - Died in concentration camp (Mauthausen in Austria) 21st april 1944
Honoré BIROLET - Returned to France after liberated from camp 6th may 1945
Alexandre BOSSAVIT - Returned to France after liberated from camp 21st may 1945
Jean Pierre Henri DELAGE 'Jeantou' - Died during deportation march 1944 (his name did not appear on previous plaque on the monument)
Roger DELON 'Le Catalan' - Returned to France after liberated from camp 2nd may 1945
René LAGUIONIE - Died in concentration camp (Mauthausen) 6th may 1945
Max MADRONNET 'Moreau' - Died in concentration camp (Mauthausen) 21st february 1945
Pierre Lucien MARCHAT 'Chevalier' - Returned to France after liberated from camp 26th april 1945 (his name is listed as died in concentration camp on previous plaque on the monument)
Léon MARSALEIX - Died in concentration camp (Mauthausen) 17th april 1944
Robert Maurice MAURY - Liberated from concentration camp 1945
Léon Jean PROMIT - Liberated from concentration camp 1945
Jean REMY - Liberated from concentration camp 1945

This is a photo of Robert Missegue 'Neuneuil' member of AS Violette taken at the monument at le Pont Lasveyras. His brother Pierre and cousin Raymond Gatinel were amongst those massacred at the mill. Photo taken before 1975.