Saturday, September 5, 2015

Yvonne Renee Manon Tardon-Banchelin (1913-1989)

Yvonne Renee Manon Tardon, daughter of Ashton Tardon and Berthe Marie Waddy, was born in Fort-de-France on 17 August 1913. Her father was mayor of Precheur (a town in the North of Martinique) and general counsel. Her brother, Raphaël Tardon was a great poet and writer.

Instead of attending classes in public schools, Yvonne had a home tutor, something that was reserved for the aristocracy at the time. Later, she returned to Fort-de-France where she was registered in the colonial school. Gifted, she succeeded her High School diploma at the age of 15 (normally 18). She then moved to Paris where she enrolled at the Sorbonne and became friends with the future President of the Republic, Georges Pompidou. She obtained a degree in history and geography, and two senior certificates (Modern and Contemporary History and another in History of the Middle Ages).

She married Jack Sainte-Luce Banchelin with whom she had a daughter who died in infancy and a son, Pierre.

While France is at war, Yvonne enlisted in the army and specialized in the Arme Féminine de l'Armée de Terre (women in the Army), first to the rank of aspirant, then to officer and lieutenant. Yvonne participated in various networks of la France Libre and the Resistance before escaping to Châteaudun Eure-et-Loir, where she was when the Allied forces landed in Normandy in 1944. On 19 August 1944 she hosted the troops of General Bradley following those of General Leclerc's 2nd DB for the liberation of Paris.

On 8 May 1945, she was a member of the delegation led by General de Lattre de Tassigny to receive the act of capitulation of Nazi Germany. She was present in her capacity as specialist staff officer 1st class was one of the only women present at this historic event.

In 1945, she returned to Martinique on leave of 6 months to resolve urgent family business. After being demobilized on 23 June 1946 she returned to Martinique where she learned to fly. She then fought an uphill, 15-year battle to recover the family estate of Anse Couleuvre at Prêcheur which was occupied by a tenacious tenant. She won her case and was able to take possession of her family's property.

She died at Fort-de-France on 23 December 1989 following a fall down the stairs. She had the honor of a state funeral with a military delegation and coffin decked with the French flag, the symbol of his commitment to the Republic. Her dearest wish will be realized ... that she died in her native island on the reclaimed estate that she loved more than anything.

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