Not long ago I was thinking that there were hardly any books in English of anyone's first hand account of being in the Résistance, be it an Englishman sent in to France as an SOE agent or a translation of one of the hundreds of books in French on the Résistance. I had even began to consider translating the books by Capitaine Fred, in particular the title La brigade Rac.
Over recent years I have translated quite a few passages from the book and posted them on this site (there are some links below) but to take on the translation of a whole book probably would take me the best part of a year, so you can see why I have held back!Then, out of the blue, a book appears entitled 'Gardens of Stone : My Boyhood in the French Résistance' written by Stephen Grady.
Stephen, who is still alive and now lives in Greece was the son of an Englishman who had stayed on in France after the First World War and had become a gardener for the Imperial War Graves Commission at Nieppe, close to the Belgian border. He had married a French Lady who ran a local café. Stephen had grown up in France but had spent his schooling in England.
In 1940, when he was 15 the Germans invaded Nieppe. His father, not having any French papers had to go into hiding and Stephen took over his job at the cemeteries.
In June 1941 a German Messerschmitt crash landed near his home and he and a friend, Marcel Lombard (still alive and well, living near Nieppe), decided to sabotage the plane but were caught doing so by the Germans. They were both imprisoned at Lille for several months and only released after the Maire of Nieppe (unbeknown to the Germans, a local résistant in the organisation La Voix de Nord) had intervened on their behalf.
On his release Stephen decided to help with the organisation and became an invaluable asset as he was able to spot if any stranded Allied aircrew were actually German by interviewing them. He spent the war as part of the Résistance and helped the SOE network "Sylvestre-Farmer" around Calais run by Michael Trotobas "Capitaine Michel".
After the war Stephen continued tending the war graves and eventually became Director of all Commonwealth War Grave Commission cemeteries in France until he retired in 1984. He received from France, for his bravery, le Croix de Guerre.
Gardens of Stone is published by Hodder and Stoughton.
showing his nom de guerre "Iroquois"
For anyone interested in reading some of my translations of Capitaine Fred's books, here are some links :
- 16 février 1944 au pont Lasveyras (link)
- An introduction to the books by Capitaine Fred about La brigade Rac (link)
- De Gaulle à Cognac et Saintes (link)
- Georgres Lautrette "Eric" (link)
- Guy Lapeyronnie "Lapeup" (link)
- Émile Hassel - Mort pour la France, Angoulême 31 aout 1944 (link)
- Histoire de Rodolphe Cézard, Jean Nicard et Georges Lautrette (link)
- L'affaire de Javerlhac (link)
- Le parachutage du 14 juillet 1944 Opération Cadillac (link)
- Le seul l'unique Georges Lautrette réveillon de noël 1943 (link)
- Michael Patrick Mcpartland ‘Mitchell’ un Anglais dans le Maquis Charentais (link)
- Raoul Audrerie " Le crapaud" (link)
- René Tallet "Violette" chef du Bataillon Violette (link)
- Saintes le 4 septembre 1944 (link)