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Tillon was born in Rennes in the Ille-et-Vilaine département. When he was mobilized in 1916 with the French navy, he was one of the leaders of the mutiny aboard the French dreadnoughts, Jean Bart and France, on the Black Sea on June 26, 1919. He was sentenced to five years at hard labor in the penal battalions in Morocco. In 1921, he was released following a general pardon. Radicalized by his period in the penal battalion, he joined the French Communist Party and the CGT union. He entered the central committee of the party in 1932 and became the deputy of Aubervilliers in 1936.
After the September 1939 dissolution of the French Communist Party, he organized the Francs-tireurs section of the French Resistance clandestinely and became the chief of its national military committee.
After the war, he was elected as the communist deputy of the Seine region in 1945 and reelected in 1951. He was a member of two constitutional assemblies in 1945-1946, after which he took a position in the French National Assembly in 1955. He was a member of the French Communist Party's political bureau from 1945-1952 and directed the Movement for Peace. He was excluded from the Communist Party in 1952, together with André Marty, following the Marty-Tillon Affair. Tillon was reinstated in 1957 and again excluded in 1970 after protesting against the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union and criticisms of the Stalinist functioning of the Communist Party.He supported the young protestors in the May events of 1968, against the lines of both PCF and CGT. (His former comrade in FTP, Jacques Duclos, though, was to be the PCF candidate for the Presidency in 1968).
He died in Marseilles on 13 January 1993.
- Air minister of the first government of Charles de Gaulle (from 10 September 1944 to 21 November 1945)
- Armaments minister of the second government of Charles de Gaulle (from 21 November 1945 to 26 January 1946)
- Armaments minister of the government of Félix Gouin (from 26 January 1945 to 24 June 1946)
- Armaments minister of the first government of Georges Bidault (from 24 June 1946 to 16 December 1946)
- Minister of Reconstruction and Town Planning of the first government of Paul Ramadier (from 22 January 1947 to 4 May 1947)
- Tillon Charles, Un « procès de Moscou » à Paris, Seuil, Paris, 1971.
- Tillon, Charles (with a foreword by Duclos, Jacques), "les FTP", Crémille, Geneva, 1972.
- Tillon Charles, On chantait rouge, Robert Laffont, Paris, 1977.