Thursday, March 21, 2024

August 1944: Death of the Maquis mules (variations on a theme)

 I mentioned a few days ago that I really like it when I can find the same story, either repeated by the same person over time or when the same story is repeated by two different people.  I particularly like the latter because it helps to improve the accuracy of the story on its own.   

Below are two descriptions of what is very likely the same FFI 4th Company event. 

The first was written in 1955 by Dr. Michel Planas (the son of the commanding officer), who served as the main medical officer for the unit.  It is almost certain that Dr. Planas was working from memory because he wrote that on August 25, 1944, the company archive that my grandfather helped Captain Planas keep had been destroyed:

At the time of leaving, we collect the survivors of the group which had committed to the North of St Marcel-les-Valence. This group had fallen on an ambush set up at the exit of the bridge under the Valence-Grenoble railway line. The chief muleteer Farnetti had been killed, two mules killed by incendiary bullets, the rest of the troop had been able to fall back and the two mule-drivers - PINOT and DEFAYSSE - brought back the two remaining mules. DEFAYSSE was slightly injured. One of the mules killed led by FARNETTI carried the box which contained all the archives of the Company held by the Captain and the Radio LUBINSKI.
Alas, that tells us that very few contemporary records for my grandfather's FFI unit still exist.  While that makes me a little sad, this story was particularly exciting to me personally because it directly mentions my grandfather: "Radio Lubinski."

Here's how my grandfather described the death of the men and mules in 1974:
During the night the cooks of the 4th Company carrying on mules their equipment and supplies have been ordered to follow the Company a few hours later. In the meantime, after the American tanks withdrew and we were asleep in a field, the mule convoy passed by and for some unexplained reason has not been stopped by any patrol. As a result the cooks alone approached the critical highway No 7. Suddenly they found themselves under enemy fire. Two were killed, two others escaped, the mules were killed and some of them burned by a supply of gasoline they carried and which caught fire. 

Grandpa didn't give the date for that event, nor did he mention the archive he helped maintain. But between the two stories, I have:

  • Possible date: 25 August 1945.
  • Confirmation of the gruesome deaths of the animals
  • Additional info about my grandfather's responsibilities with the company archive (which I didn't know about).
  • Probable location: Near RN-7 between Valence and the Chabeuil Airfield

Approximate location of the event. National Route 7 ("N7" on the map)
between Valence and the Chabeuil airfield


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