Monday, September 21, 2015

Marie Louise Dissard (1880-1957)

Marie Louise Dissard was born in Cahors, France in 1880. When France surrendered to Germany in 1940, she joined the Resistance using the code name "Francoise".

At first she worked under Ian Garrow, a soldier in the British Army who had missed the Dunkirk evacuation and remained in France where he arranged an escape route over the Pyrenees. In October 1941, Garrow was captured and imprisoned. When his replacement was also arrested, Marie became the new leader of the escape network.

As an elderly woman, the Gestapo did not suspect she was a member of the Resistance. She arranged for more than 250 Allied airmen to get back to England. This involved escorting them to Toulouse (where she arranged their lodgings) and moving them to Perpignan where they were handed over to the Pyrenees guides.

In January 1944, one of the guides was arrested in Perpignan. Contrary to the rules of the network he was carrying a notebook that contained Marie's name. She was forced into hiding and lived in a variety of attics, cellars and garages in Toulouse until France was liberated. During her time underground, she helped 110 more men to escape.

After the war, the United Kingdom awarded her the George Medal, a very senior decoration, and the United States awarded her the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the U.S. 

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