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Abbeville Massacre - by French Troops 1940

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#1 scipio



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Posted 13 July 2013 - 03:19 PM

I have been trying to put together all the bits and pieces I can find on this massacre which does not seem to be well documented - probably because it was caused by retreating French Troops.


On 15 May the prisons of Bruges in Belgium were overflowing with "fifth columnists" and with the approach of the German Army the 79 suspects were despatched to Abbeville in France. 



The convoy included Leon Degrelle - the well known Belgian Fascist. He was lucky; he was recognised and dragged out and beaten-up by French soldiers and handed over to the Sureté.


Also  included was Joris Van Severen, head of a party called Verdinaso, very right wing and advocates of Greater Belgium (based upon Charlemagne's "Frankish -Flemish" Empire of 800ish). This party, however, was very anti-German.


The remainder were a very mixed bunch:


14 Germans, 6 Dutch, 3 Luxembourg, 9 Italians, 2 Swiss, 1 French man (from Alsace - with a German accent), 1 Austrian, 1 Czech and 1 Canadian - Robert Bell, Ice-Hockey Coach.


The remainder were of unknown nationality - in most cases lack of "papers" had been sufficient to get them incarcerated. 


This motley group arrived in Abbeville on night of 19th may 1940 and for want of anything appropriate were locked in the cellar of a large shop. An unfortunate Belgian who had refused to join the French Army was added to the group.


On the very next day, 20 May  Guderian's Panzers arrived. 


Capitan Marcel Digeon (Major rank in the US or British Army) and his 5th Company, 28th Regional Regiment was in charge. He orders Sgt Mollet to dispose of the prisoners. 


Mollet was uncomfortable and returns to Dingeon who this time is more explicit "shoot the lot" is the answer. 


To get it over with a French soldier throws a grenade into the Cellar but it does not explode. Then Lieutenant Rene Caron, whose Platoon is involved and who is believed to be drunk, joins the group.


The prisoners are taken out and shot in groups of two and four.


A total of 21 are summarily murdered without even an attempt at a Courts Martial.


The slaughter is only stopped when another French Officer, Lieutenant Leclabart also of 28th RR comes by - "are you mad" he exclaims and stops the massacre.


Too late to save the 20 men and one old lady who have already been executed. Those executed included, a Benedictine Brother (but German), four Anti-fascist Italian Refugees, the driver of the transport (shot by mistake) and the Canadian Ice Hockey Team Coach.


The Germans set up Trial in 1941 but Capitan Dingeon committed suicide immediately prior to its sitting - it is unclear what happened to others involved. 



Obliged if any one can correct anything I have got wrong or omitted. 



#2 TD-Tommy776


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Posted 13 July 2013 - 10:11 PM

Citing your sources of information would be helpful for those of us who are unfamiliar with the topic.

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#3 LJAd



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Posted 14 July 2013 - 06:16 AM

Additional information (from a Flemish site:Review of :Het bloedbad van Abbeville ,by Gaby Warris)


Gaby Warris was the last living survivor of the massacre,and wrote a book about the events in 1994.


Her father was a Dutch protestant living in Bruges ans had influential enemies in Bruges,which was dominated by a francophone catholic establishment .On 10 may 1940,the police arrived at his house,but he was absent,being in Holland with his sick mother . Were present : 3 women :his wive,his daughter (18) and his mother-in-law;all were arrested and deported .


79 persons were deported,arriving at Abbeville (21 were murdered),of which a German monk who was dement,and a Canadian !:Arthur Bell,who was the trainer of the German icehockey team,and had left Germany,to return to Canada .,2 spies and some criminals .


I will look if the names of the 21 victims are available on the net . 

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#4 LJAd



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Posted 14 July 2013 - 09:19 AM

The whole thing proved the usual incompetence of the Belgian authorities : between (!) 5000 and 10000 people (most innocent) were arrested by the local police,which was acting on own account ,for imaginary reasons (espionitis was ruling).The man who was responsible (Robert de Foy,chief of the Belgian security) was arrested by the Germans after the end of the war in the west,because a lot of German civilians had been deported,and several killed),but,after a few days,he was released on the order of R.Heydrich (chief of the SIPO/SD),because,before the war,he had collaborated with the Germans .

After the war,de Foy again became chief of the Belgian security,and at his retirement,was given the titleof Baron .

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#5 Sheldrake



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Posted 09 August 2013 - 07:08 PM

The  summary executions of suspected fifth columnists by Allied troops is one of the grubbier secrets of the World Wars.


The stories of fifth columnists substantiated by the German  use of troops in Dutch uniform on 10th May resulted in troops being very suspicious of civilians who looked or behaved in an odd way.  The British accounts of 1940 include several eye witness accounts by allied soldiers, which are tantamount to confessions.   One sniper  in the Northamptonshire Regiment became convinced that the farmer was ploughing his field in a way to indicate the position of battalion HQ to German aircraft - so he shot him.   One of the Guards Battalions (Welsh?) in Boulogne found a man dressed as a priest with a suspicious list of names in his bible so they threw him in the harbour and left him to drown.  


The same is true of the First World War.  There is at least one account of a miller executed as a spy for "signaling  to the Germans with the sails of with his windmill". I have seen enough references to spies being rounded up and shot as well as pictures in contemporary magazines to wonder what standard of justice was applied.  


I think some of the fears about fifth columnists and enemy sympathizers may have arisen from the politics of the 1930s which divided many countries. Sometimes this was left v right and sometimes it was along ethnic and linguistic lines, as in Belgium.  

#6 LJAd



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Posted 09 August 2013 - 08:05 PM

The best one was that the usual stupid one in Brussels ordered to remove the publicity panels of the chicory Pacha (there were thousands of them),because they were hiding secret messages for the Germans .


It would be the same if in Britain all publicity for Guinness was removed :,because "Guinness is good for you" is a secret message for German para troopers,disguised as nuns .

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