The resistance

The Resistance is the generic term for the manifestation of opposition to the German occupation and to the Vichy government

Expatriate resistance

La croix de LorrianneDuring the Second World War the French resistance organised progressively.

At the beginning, there was primarily the expatriate resistance of the Free French led by General de Gaulle. Following his appeal of 18th June 1940 the General met in London, with those men and women who were prepared to fight. Subsequently de Gaulle created the Free French army which adopted the name "Forces Francaises Libres" (FFL). Its emblem was the Cross of Lorraine.






The Cross of Lorraine

Symbol of Free France 

These combatants took part in operations in Africa and also participated in the liberation of France. The Kieffer commando landed in Normandy in June 1944 and General Leclerc’s  2nd DB liberated Paris in August 1944.

La 2e DB accueillie par les Parisiens

The 2nd DB welcomed by Parisians

On French territory

Resistance to German occupation and the collaborationist Vichy regime was also organised on French territory. From the beginning of the German occupation, acts of resistance by individuals or by small groups became manifest: the laceration of public notices, graffiti... 

As the war progressed, members of the Resistance organised in networks or in the maquis. The networks were clandestine organisations, which established escape routes for prisoners, arms caches, leaflet distribution, sabotage and intelligence.

Preparing for the landings

In order to prepare the landings, the resistance networks provided intelligence by carrier pigeons or by radio transmitters/receivers. This was vitally important intelligence, which helped the Allies to complete their knowledge of the German strong and weak points. This intelligence added to the data acquired by aerial photography, which was the principle source of Allied intelligence. 

Within the network, individual agents acted alone; it was necessary to carry the least possible information in case the agent should be arrested. 

 The maquis were in inaccessible areas where one, or groups of agents could hide, particularly to escape from the Compulsory Work Service. These groups, mainly composed of men, prepared to fight. They received arms from the Allies delivered by parachute drops. 

In Normandy small groups of maquis formed, notably in forested regions of the Orne or in the hills of Ecouves and Andaines. 

On 5th June 1944, alerted by the BBC in a personal message "The dice are on the mat", resistance members knew that the landings were imminent. They began the following actions:

  • Plan Violet: German lines of communication were cut
  • Plan Turtle: The road system was paralysed in order to prevent the transport of reinforcements to the coast.
  • Plan Green: The rail network was sabotaged to slow down and disturb the riposte.

Trees were felled, by axe or by explosives. Road signs disappeared or reversed...

The German reaction to these acts of sabotage was often merciless. The SS Das Reich Division committed massacres on the road from Montauban to Normandy, in Tulle on 9th June 1944 and in Oradour-sur-Glane on 10th June 1944.


With the contribution of  Rémy Desquesnes