Posts Tagged ‘Genest’

the combat of Genest

October 20, 2010

The little village of Le Chézeau has about twelve inhabited houses (counting that of the couple from Toulon, who are sometimes here, and ourselves, who are here for some part of the summer).  There are some crumbling unoccupied cottages too, so at its height through the late-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries I suppose it would have had maybe fifteen to twenty farming and farm-labouring families.  It’s too small to have its own shop, church or café, but it does have a post box, and the charcuterie van comes round from Ste Sévère on a Wednesday afternoon. 

There’s a big ugly corrugated iron building that appears on the map as a ‘silo’, but it’s really some sort of animal feed store.  It has a large parking area for the transport vehicles to pull in, and an office in a semi-derelict mobile home.  A few years ago a fine marble plaque incised with blue lettering was placed in the parking area.  The effect was rather like the headstone on a grave.  Then, a little later, the concrete pillar supporting it was upgraded to a more stylish plinth.

memorial to the resistance - le chezeau

If my photo isn’t very clear, the French says:

 

A la mémoire
des résistants du groupe Indre-est qui cantonnerent
sur ces lieux en juillet 1944
avant de participer au combat de Genest.

  in English:

To the memory
of the resistance fighters of the group Indre-East who were billeted
at this place in July 1944,
before taking part in the battle of Genest.

 

Genest is a short pleasant walk from here, nowadays, along a waymarked official walking path.  From le Chézeau you go along the road towards Ste Sévère for a couple of hundred yards, then onto a track past some large fields, beside an oak wood and down to a little stream.  On the other side of the stream the path rises through the woods of Beaulieu, and on up to Genest, which is on the main road (if that’s the right term for the D110) between Boussac and Ste Sévère.  There’s a fine view back to the south over the fields and villages of Étoubet and le Chézeau towards the hilly wood of les Pièges.  Tractors steadily working their fields and the telecommunications mast barely keep us aware of which century we are in.  It’s a little hard to see how this can be a battle site – one might suspect that the village fathers are exaggerating the matter, in their zeal to support local patriotism.

The full story of the Battle of Genest can be pieced together via Google (in French), but briefly it goes like this.  To coincide with the Normandy landings in July 1944, a call went out to the French nation to rise up, join with the Résistance, and attack the occupying German army.  The response was massive, especially in Centre.  (see the Wikipedia entry for Pérassay) At the same time, German troops were urgently moved north from their stations in the centre and south of France to reinforce the battles taking place in northern France.  The Germans were furious with the French who impeded their desperate march northwards, and presumably also rather well aware that they would be fighting a bitter rearguard action in a war now lost.  Massacres had taken place in the Dordogne.  A group of the SS were stationed at Chateauroux, but I can’t find out quite why they were moving southwards in July.  Certainly there was a tumult, and bitterly personal reprisals within La Châtre at that time, and Ste Sévère is not far from there.  At Genest on the 16th July, according to the journal of Jean Gaultier, a schoolteacher at Saint Chartier, the German troops made an ambush near two lorries that had broken down, and fought a pitched battle with local people and the Resistance.  Gaultier’s journal is at http://creban.ifrance.com/liberat/gaucum.htm .  The regular troops won, of course, and there is a list of the seventeen French casualties on a memorial at Genest. 

 The thought of that wholesale popular uprising, which has been largely forgotten or denied by ordinary English-speaking people, is one I find intensely moving.  These genial local farmers look well-fed and comfortable as they glide past, high up on their huge tractors, but even so the memorials are new and well-tended.

the memorial on its plinth

 

More to come:

* I will blog another part of the story – and the tale of the courage of the mayor of Vijon – another time, when I can flesh it out with the relevant photos.  

 * More detail about the resistance in the Indre at:
http://creban.ifrance.com/repress/repallete44.html


%d bloggers like this: