Émilienne Moreau-Evrard

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Émilienne Moreau wearing the Croix de guerre in Versailles, 27 November 1915

Émilienne Moreau-Evrard (4 June 1898 – 5 January 1971) was a French heroine of World War I, a high-profile female member of the “Brutus” Resistance network during World War II and later, a member of the “Assemblée consultative provisoire”. Moreover, she is one of only six women recipients of the Ordre de la Libération.

Life[edit]

Émilienne Moreau was born on 4 June 1898 at Wingles, in the Pas-de-Calais département.

In 1914, her father, a retired miner, opened a grocery store in Loos-en-Gohelle, close to Lens whilst World War I was breaking out.

World War I[edit]

Émilienne Moreau, who was starting a teaching career, witnessed the German invasion of the north of France during October 1914. In December of the same year, her father died whilst the German soldiers were housed in their village.

In February 1915, she created, in a basement, an improvised school for the local children.

On 25 September, whilst Scottish soldiers of the Black Watch counter-attacked her village, Émilienne, who was only 17 years old, went to meet them and gave them the precise location of the German positions in a small, impregnable fort. Thanks to this information, the allies were able to go around the small fort, reducing the German effectiveness in this particular corner of the battlefield, with very few casualties. Further to this attack, Émilienne organised a first aid post in her house with the help of a Scottish doctor, to take care of the wounded, but the Germans tried to take back the village.

To save a British soldier who was under enemy fire in the village, she went out of her home with explosives and succeeded, with the help of some British soldiers, in forcing the Germans to flee from their position in the neighboring house. Later on, she shot two German soldiers though a closed wooden door. Eventually, the village was under the sole control of the allies.

Evacuated, she was awarded the Croix de guerre 1914-1918 with an army acknowledgement given directly by Marshal Ferdinand Foch and the Croix du Combattant by the French Army. Moreover, the British army awarded her the Military Medal, the Royal Red Cross (first class) and the Venerable Order of Saint John. This last award is rarely given to a woman. She was personally invited to meet the President of the French Republic Raymond Poincaré and later the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, George V.

The French newspaper Le Petit Parisien wrote in detail all her exploits, making her a national hero. The army and the press used her image to buck up the civilians and the fighting people. A bit later, the story of an Australian-made movie entitled The Joan of Arc of Loos (1916) recounted her accomplishments but it received much criticism for using such a revered name for the title.

After graduating, she ended the war teaching in a boys' school in Paris.

After the war, she went back to the Pas-de-Calais in the north of France and got married in 1932 to the socialist activist Just Evrard. In 1934, she became the General Secretary of the women's socialist movement of her department.

World War II[edit]

When World War II was declared, Émilienne was living with her husband and her two children, Raoul and Roger, in the city of Lens. As with many people in northern France, they fled from the war zone, but after the French Armistice, she went back to Lens with her family.

Émilienne, who was famous for her former military actions during World War I, was quickly placed under house arrest in Lillers. However, she was permitted to return home after some time. There, in Lens, she started to distribute propaganda brochures against Marshal Philippe Pétain and his capitulation and made contact with the British Intelligence Service, giving them crucial information. At the end of 1940, Emillienne and her husband created a secret section of her socialist party in Lens.

Émilienne Moreau is known in the French resistance under two names: “Jeanne Poirier” and “Émilienne la Blonde”. She was in charge of linking “Brutus” in Switzerland with CAS (in English: Socialist Action Committee), combining this with some specific missions in Paris.

Then she joined the resistance movement named “France au Combat” (in English: “The Fighting France”) founded in 1943 by André Boyer. There she worked with Augustin Laurent, André Le Troquer and Pierre Lambert.

In March 1944, at Lyon, she was almost arrested, following the case of the “85 de l’Avenue de Saxe”. In this affair, seventeen 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 by the Gestapo. In one of these, Nazi soldiers were waiting for her near her house and when they saw her, they fired in her direction but missed. She quickly escaped using a basement in the neighbourhood.

Now officially hunted down, she tried several times to escape to England, finally getting away on August 7, 1944.

Back in France in September 1944, she sat in the “Assemblée consultative” where she embodied the French female way.[citation needed] For her work in the French resistance, she was awarded the rare title of Compagnon de la Libération by Général Charles de Gaulle in Béthune in August 1945.

When World War II was over, she became a politician in the French Socialist Party.

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

Honours[edit]

External links[edit]