Saturday, September 12, 2015

Emilienne Moreau-Evrard (1898-1971)

Emilienne Moreau was born at Wingles, Pas-de-Calais, France on 4 June 1898. She was the daughter of a retired miner who opened a grocery store in Loos-en-Gohelle.

She was starting a teaching career when the Germans invaded the north of France during October 1914. Her father died in December of that year while German soldiers were housed in their village.

On 25 September 1915, as Scottish soldiers of the Black Watch counter-attacked her village, 17-year-old Emilienne provided vital information on the location of the Germans and helped care for wounded Scottish soldiers. Her exploits were reported in detail by the French newspaper Le Petit Parisien.

After the war, she went back to the Pas-de-Calais. She married socialist activist Just Evrard in 1932. When WWII was declared, Émilienne was living with her husband and her two children in Lens. As with many people in northern France, they fled from the war zone, but returned to Lens after the French Armistice to be with her family.

Famous for her former military actions during WWI, Emilienne was quickly placed under house arrest in Lillers. After some time she was permitted to return to Lens where she distributed propaganda brochures against Marshal Pétain's and made contact with the British Intelligence Service, giving them crucial information.

At the end of 1940, Emilienne and her husband created a secret section of her socialist party in Lens. She was known in the Resistance under two names: Jeanne Poirier and Émilienne la Blonde and was in charge of linking “Brutus” in Switzerland with CAS (Socialist Action Committee), combining this with some specific missions in Paris. She later joined the “France au Combat” (The Fighting France) resistance movement, founded in 1943 by André Boyer.

In March 1944, she was almost arrested following the case of the “85 de l’Avenue de Saxe” in Lyon. In this affair, 17 of her friends in the resistance network were arrested by the Gestapo. Two months later, still in Lyon, she escaped yet again from another series of raids. In one of them, Nazi soldiers waited for her near her house and fired in her direction when they spotted her. They missed and she quickly escaped by using a basement in the neighborhood.

Now officially hunted down, she escaped to England on 7 August 1944 after several attempts.

Back in France in September 1944, she sat in the “Assemblée consultative”. For her work in the French resistance, she was awarded the rare title of Compagnon de la Libération by Général Charles de Gaulle in August 1945.

Émilienne Moreau-Evrard died on January 5, 1971 and was buried in Lens, aged 72 years old.

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