Maquis

Dominique Vincetti  - The establishment of the Ols maquis in Aveyron.

“First we had to figure out where to set up the maquis. During the first days our investigations led us to the limestone plateaus of Ambeyrac; there we were, three Frenchmen. We went to see the plateaus, which, according to our intelligence, seemed to meet our needs; if our information was accurate, Ambeyrac would soon be the main base of our maquis. We reached the plateaus at around four o’clock in the afternoon, coming from the Naussac railway station on little dirt roads winding through fields in order to avoid the villages of Naussac, Gelles, Foissac; a stranger in those little places would stand out right away. Every afternoon we explored the plateau in every direction and at night we decided to go down to Ambeyrac where our friend Louis knew the schoolteacher, Marty, who was sent there by Vichy. We didn’t reach the village until around midnight; it was as though we were in a maze where every house looked exactly the same and every grove looked alike. The people in the village were still up; even though it was midnight, folks living in the countryside don’t want to have any official time. It was around midnight when we reached Marty’s house and asked him if we could spend the night. We exchanged our impressions around a little fire. We talked about the organisational possibilities; everything seemed to be what we needed. In the morning our two comrades left before daybreak: they were regional leaders. The same day Marty introduced me to Monsieur Vernet; he’s a typical Aveyron farmer, gruff and very plain-speaking. I realised  that you had to talk straight with this man, that there was no need to beat around the bush or make up stories. I straightforwardly explained to him why I was in the area, the goal of my visit, my mission. He listened very carefully. Our friend had several young children and was supporting his old grandfather, but patriotism, chained France, he said, was more important than family considerations and his duty was to help break those chains. He owned a little house on the plateau. It was neither a flower-bedecked chalet nor a lavish country villa where people who had gotten rich on collaborating went on holiday, but a simple little barn, a shelter for livestock in bad weather. He unhesitatingly gave us the keys but that wasn’t all. In a few days, he told us, some young men would come to stay at our ‘villa’ and we’d have to find something for them to eat, at least for the first few days. ‘When those young men arrive of course you have to feed them,’ he said. ‘No chicken but potatoes, bread, beans, lard and even a little walnut oil.’ One more thing, we needed a little straw to sleep on. ‘We’ll find some,’ our friend answered. ‘You won’t manage all alone, we’ll have to find somebody to help you,’ he said. Don’t you think there are some people in the village who’d gladly help the maquis? But Vernet was wary, a little reluctant, he didn’t want rumours to start circulating about the birth of the Maquis; people might talk and spill the beans.”

Dominique Vincetti in Construire l'histoire de la Résistance, Aveyron 1944, Christian FONT and Henri MOIZET, CRDP Midi-Pyrénées