Networks

Loustaunau-Lacau, founder of the Alliance network, which the Germans named “Noah’s Ark” :

“We left Vichy on the morning of 28 March 1941.

The direction was Pau because the Béarn was organised. We would be on friendly turf because my childhood friends were there and I knew everybody in town and it is the gateway to Spain.

We did not go there to flee but to stand our ground and fight. We were going to suffer in the Ark and most of us were going to die there. Vichy did not make us feel disgusted with France; on the contrary, it increased our desire to do the impossible with whatever means were on hand and to ceaselessly grow so that one day Bayonne, Bordeaux, Paris, Nancy would be free. The battle waged from London was a battle of allies. It held out great hope of victory at a time when Hitler had not yet dared to cross the Channel.

But there had to be men in France who would serve as scouts and sacrifice themselves in advance so that our blows could hit their intended targets. Not just scouts but propagandists so that the country could deserve its victory, and people to hide weapons, and men to train our forces destined, when the time came, to strike a lethal blow at the enemy’s rear. Perhaps it has not been noticed enough that in a war where the sea fights against land, three actions carried out in the continent had a capital importance. If the land was silent, the sea would be blind.

Combined, alternating or successive, they required ongoing effort and painstaking preparation. There was no need to be a military academy graduate to imagine, distinguish, reconcile and understand those three actions: collecting intelligence, convincing, storing. How right Joffre was when he said about the Battle of the Marne, ‘On the evening of 5 September 1914, a corporal atop the Eiffel Tower, thinking he could make out von Klück marching towards the southeast, grasped what needed to be done to achieve victory. The problems started when he was back down at the bottom."

With our best men already with us, on 1 April 1941 we were at the bottom of the tower. The first, and by far the most daunting, challenge was to rigorously establish our connections with London, which until then had been chancy and unreliable, for the immediate as well as the distant future. That problem had been haunting me since October because it involved the difficulty of making a technical as well as a political choice: London-de Gaulle or London-the English?”

Major Loustaunau-Lacau in Mémoires d'un Français rebelle, Robert Laffont, 1948