Honouring the Resistance
En route between these two sites, another two short ceremonies take place.
One at the hamlet of La Verdenie, where a small stèle commemorates the death of René Donadille, a Resistant killed in a skirmish with occupying forces in June 1944, aged 30. Then at the cemetery of St-Germain-des-Prés, at the tombs of André Dumas and Rene Geoffroy, who died at the hands of the Miliciens in March and April 1944, both aged 19.
Following the morning’s ceremonies, there is a vin d’honneur for all those taking part, followed by a lunch, generously hosted by both communes, for many of those present including the relatives of the Stirling crew.
Monument to the aircrew
At the site of the crash at La Morenchie, a monument to the crew of the Stirling was erected, in the form of a stèle in 1974. It was designed by local architect and ex-Resistant, Yves Bancon, in a form to suggest the wings of an aircraft. It was built with the help of a small group of students from the nearby Lycéee Professional du Bâtiment at Chardeuil under the direction of Professor Lafabregue. (M. Bancon is now retired and currently General Secretary of the departmental ANACR committee.)
The monument was dedicated at a ceremony on 25th August 1974, on the 30th anniversary of the liberation of Paris. Attended by many representatives of government and the ANACR, it was unveiled byCarla Mason, daughter of the navigator. After WWII, Carla’s mother’s wish was for her daughter to maintain links with the communities where her father died, and arranged for her to correspond with a pen-friend from the school in Excideuil, Francine Duranty. Carla maintained her links with the town, learned to speak fluent French and attended many of the annual ceremonies from the age of 11. She last travelled to France with her husband Garrett Kenny and their daughters in 2004 but was too ill to attend, and sadly died in November that year. Francine still lives in the town with her husband and maintains links with the aircrew families as below.
Monument to the crew at La Morenchie (24.08.2004)
Annual ceremony at La Morenchie 23.08.2004
65 Years after
Families in touch
Since 1997, the families and relatives of five members of the Stirling crew are in touch with each other, mostly through Carla Kenny, and have attended and taken part in the annual ceremonies.
Sheila Jones, daughter of PO Dutton and her husband Alan, and Stuart Dutton, son of PO Dutton with his daughter Jane.
Mary Ghrist, niece of Sgt. Beale, her husband Richard, and her Sister and brother-in-law Susan and Alan.
Christine Talbot, daughter of F/Lt Taylor and her husband Peter, who have attended most years since 1998, and David, Son of F/Lt Taylor, and his wife Pamela.
Zena Williams (née Brizell), daughter of George Elliot’s Cousin Joyce Stott, wrote to Carla after visiting the cemetery in 1999, and her brother Andrew Brizell is a member of the Stirling Aircraft Society.
For the future
Some of us have asked each other “for how many more years will these ceremonies continue ?” - in the year 2009, 65 years have passed since the events commemorated took place.
From the tenor of speeches made by the Mayors, ANACR members, and others in France involved in the ceremonies, there is no question of them calling time.
The Anciens Combattants who both played their parts and survived WWII, are fewer in number as each year passes, but the spaces are filled, and the Resistance flags still proudly carried, by the succeeding generations.
To quote Arnaud Le Guay, then Mayor of Excideuil, in 1998:
“The fight for freedom is never fought once and for all, we are never totally safe from turmoil.
It is a constant battle as incessant as the struggle between light and darkness. The memory of such sacrifices enforces us to maintain this struggle.
The memory of such sacrifices clears a path for those of us who are conscious of such fragility in the world, and goes far to bring us fortitude instead of surrender.”
Details of the mission and crew are from 299 Squadron Operations Record Books, and Parachute Raid Reports at National Archives, Kew.
For all other information, grateful thanks are due to:
Staff at the Syndicat d’Initiative and the Mairie, Excideuil.
M. Paul Clergerie.
Carla Kenny and Francine Bourdier (née Duranty), and their families.
Mary Ghrist, and Christine Talbot.
Copyright © Stirling Aircraft Society