Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June 1940 Bombardments, Part One

I'm stepping back in time four years now from the events I've recounted in my previous posts about La Ferté Saint Aubin's WWII history. In June 1940, this route -- the National Route 20, but locally called rue du General LeClerc -- was clogged with refugees trying to make their way from the north out of German occupied areas. There were thousands of people inching their way along the French roads via cars, trucks, strollers, bicycles, trailers, by foot....every possible mode of transportation.

Witnesses say it was about 4:30 p.m. on June 15, 1940, when planes coming from the north of La Ferté unleashed their fury on the National 20, which was full of weary people. Whether the planes were German or Italian is disputed, but the tragedy was undeniably enormous.

Several local residents were counted among the dead. One man was killed at the Hotel de La Croix Blanche, the current site of La Sauvagine Restaurant (above). Assistant teachers Marguerite Pivet and Mureille Prieur as well as Prieur's baby were killed while at a local home. This preschool below is named for Mrs. Prieur.

Near the cinema, a woman had her legs crushed and later lost her fight to survive. Another teacher, Robert Munsch, died later of his injuries sustained in the bombings on this day. There were nine confirmed dead, but witnesses say there were clearly many more. That's despite the fact that the bombs were considered to be of a small caliber. The injured were evacuated by military ambulance to the the La Ferté Saint Aubin castle, which served as a makeshift hospital during the war.

Unfortunately, the planes returned for a second pass the following day. I'll recount June 16th tomorrow.

Source: La Résistance dans le Canton de La Ferté-Saint-Aubin 1940-1945

For more on La Ferté Saint Aubin's historical society, click here.

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