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Four French Resistance fighters awarded honorary MBEs

Four French Resistance fighters are to be awarded honorary MBEs in recognition of their work during World War Two, as France commemorates 80 years since General Charles de Gaulle’s famous June 18 “appeal”.

Edgard Tupët-Thomé (aged 100), Daniel Bouyjou-Cordier (aged 99), Hubert Germain (aged 99) and Pierre Simonet (aged 98) will be recognised for their significant role in facilitating the Allies’ advance through France following the invasion of Normandy in 1944.

The honorary MBEs will be presented at a ceremony in France in the next few months.

The title of “honorary MBE” is awarded to non-UK nationals. Recipients become honorary members of the Order of Chivalry and are permitted to use the initials “MBE” after their name.

The four Resistance fighters are:

(Photo: Ordre de la Libération / )

  • Edgard Tupët-Thomé (L), born on April 19, 1920 in Bourg-la-Reine (Seine). He took part in the attacks in Lorraine as a Sergeant in September 1939 and then in Belgium in May 1940. His unit was part of the defending force during the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk and he went on to become a Lieutenant in the 4th Air Infantry Battalion, completing several parachute missions.
  • Pierre Simonet (R), born on October 27, 1921 in Hanoi. He was part of the Expeditionary Force whose mission was to rally French West Africa (AOF) to Free France in Dakar. Throughout the war he took part in various campaigns including in France and Italy. Second Lieutenant Simonet flew a total of 137 war missions in 250 flying hours and was awarded four commendations.

(Photo: Ordre de la Libération / )

  • Daniel Bouyjou-Cordier (L), born on August 10 1920 in Bordeaux (Gironde). He enlisted with his comrades in the Légion de Gaulle on 28 June 1940. He was parachuted into France near Montluçon on July 26, 1942 as a radio operator. In March 1944, he was pursued by the Gestapo and escaped through the Pyrenees before travelling to England at the end of May 1944 and being appointed head of the Bureau of Intelligence and Action's agent parachuting section.
  • Hubert Germain (R), born on August 6, 1920 in Paris. He engaged in the Free French Forces from the outset and went on to serve in Egypt, Tunisia and Italy. He took part in the landing in Provence in August 1944 and in the liberation of Toulon, the Rhone Valley and Lyon. He then took part in the Vosges and Alsace campaigns and ended the war in the southern Alps.

Of the honorary MBEs, Prime Minister Johnson said: “The four men we are honouring today – Pierre, Edgard, Daniel and Hubert – symbolise the enduring depth and strength of the friendship between our two countries. They are heroes, and I am immensely proud that as a nation we are paying tribute to their courage and sacrifice in defending us and the whole world from fascism.”

The June 18 appeal

The fighters’ nominations come as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron to London to commemorate 80 years since the then little-known general made an appeal to French people to join him to fight the Nazi threat.

This is now known as the “Appel du 18 juin” (“Appeal” or “Call” of June 18), and is often seen as the origin of the French Resistance.

The message - broadcast by the BBC directly to occupied France - called on French soldiers, engineers and workers to join de Gaulle in the fight against Nazi Germany, in defiance of the “armistice” announcement made by then-Marshall Philippe Pétain government the day before.

General de Gaulle’s message included the words: “Quoi qu’il arrive, la flamme de la résistance française ne doit pas s’éteindre et ne s’éteindra pas (Whatever happens, the fire of the French resistance must not go out, and will not go out)”.

(Photo: Revue des 2 Mondes / Twitter)

Appeal authenticity

While this famous photo (above) is often used to illustrate General de Gaulle’s now-iconic appeal, it has emerged that the image was not actually taken on June 18, 1940.

Historian Aurélie Luneau told news service FranceInfo: “We do know the exact date [of the photo] and we do not know who took it.”

Similarly, the original broadcast of the June 18 call was not recorded. The one that is often played now is actually a second reading of the original speech, recorded four days later.

This was because few people heard the first call on June 18, so it was repeated later, and reached a wider audience.


80th anniversary commemoration

President Macron will be in London today as part of the commemorations. He will be welcomed by Prince Charles for ceremonial events first, before being hosted by Mr Johnson at Downing Street.

Mr Johnson has said: “Eighty years ago Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the French Resistance, arrived in London knowing that the values of freedom, tolerance and democracy that Britain and France shared were under threat. He pledged that we would stand together to defend those values and protect our citizens from those bent on destroying us.”

Read more: President Macron to visit London in memory of wartime ‘call’

The two leaders are set to view artefacts connected with General de Gaulle’s time in London.

These will include:

  • A letter from General de Gaulle to Winston Churchill dated 23 June 1940 in which he discusses the launch of the French Resistance
  • Objects connected to the “Order de la Liberation” - a Cross of Lorraine in crystal glass gifted from General De Gaulle to Churchill
  • A 1940s-era microphone, similar to that used by de Gaulle to broadcast his ‘Appel’.

President Macron and Mr Johnson will also watch a flypast performed by the Red Arrows and their French equivalent, La Patrouille de France – who will fly over London to mark the anniversary of the “appel”.

The two leaders are also scheduled to hold a “bilateral meeting” to discuss a range of issues, including relations post-Brexit, and common strategies to continue the fight against Covid-19.

Prime Minister Johnson said: “The struggles we face today are different to those we confronted together 80 years ago. But I have no doubt that – working side by side – the UK and France will continue to rise to every new challenge and seize every opportunity that lies ahead.”

The visit to London is just one event on Mr Macron’s calendar today, to commemorate the event.

This morning, he is visiting the museum of the Ordre de la Libération, where he will meet with Hubert Germain, one of the Resistance Fighters being honoured.

He will then travel to a war memorial in Mont Valérien (Hauts-de-Seine), for a ceremony during which the famous “appel” will be read (below); before travelling to London.

Macron accused of ‘incoherent’ de Gaulle timetable

But Mr Macron has received criticism for “linking” these places together in his travels, and for “inserting himself in the story”, just one month after he also visited the site of the Battle of Montcornet, which was a key battle in the Battle of France.

One anonymous commentator told Le HuffPost: “These are rather crude links between the de Gaulle de Montcornet, the de Gaulle of June 18, and the de Gaulle of the Fifth Republic.

“For example, this Thursday, Emmanuel Macron will talk with Hubert Germain in the Salle de Gaulle of the Musée de l'Ordre de la Libération…[but] this is a room that has many objects related to the later de Gaulle [who was] President.

“One gets the impression that this incoherent mix is mainly aimed at inserting the current head of state into the story."

Another historian, Bernard Lachaise, Emeritus Professor of contemporary history at Sciences Po Bordeaux and General de Gaulle specialist, told Le HuffPost: "These three ‘de Gaulles' have nothing to do with each other, really. They each have their own context and reality. But we are talking about memory, not history, right now.”

Serge Bernstein, history professor at Sciences Po Paris, added: “Emmanuel Macron is taking the opportunity to celebrate the 'French spirit of resistance', and implicitly poses as the General's heir. After all, that is what history is for politicians: [their opportunity] to rise to the level of someone considered as a role model.”

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