The attack on a German security train in Mussidan (11 June 1944)

In Mussidan, the Resistance made it a priority to neutralise the RN 89 and the railway. The two tracks, which linked Périgueux to Bordeaux, represented a strategic issue for the German army.

In Saint-Astier, the railway served an underground factory (SNCASO) controlled by the occupying forces and which assembled aircraft parts. Moreover, deprived of the railway network in Corrèze, damaged by the Resistance, the enemy had to find other transport routes to load its tanks for the Normandy beaches. General Lammerding, commander of the 2nd SS Das Reich armoured division, chose the Périgueux-Coutras line. The line was intact and had no tunnels or major engineering structures that would have prevented the tanks from getting through.

To ensure the security of the line, Lieutenant Zimmer, who commanded a company belonging to the Luftwaffe’s 50th Aviation Regiment (Flieger Regiment 50) at Saint-Astier, decided to patrol the line between Saint-Astier and Montpon with a convoy of wagons equipped with machine guns and containing around twenty trainee soldiers.

It was therefore a strategic target for the FTP leaders of sub-sector C, who ordered Henri Borzeix, the commander of the 4th battalion, to occupy Mussidan on Sunday 11 June. Assisted by Robert Crouzille (Roland) and Henri Darré (Arthur), he was instructed to sabotage the railway bridge that crossed the river Isle and to destroy the German protection train if it arrived at the station. The hundred or so men left their camp at Saint-Georges Blancaneix at around 8 a.m. and arrived in Mussidan two hours later. They were mostly young and inexperienced.

As they had just occupied the strategic points of the town (station, town hall, police station), the German security train entered the station. At the end of a confrontation lasting almost an hour, as violent as it was uncertain, the resistance fighters gained the upper hand over the German soldiers and were able to approach the train, which they blew up. Eleven Resistance fighters were killed, as well as a dozen dead and a dozen prisoners on the German side. But the battle was not over. A combat group of the 111th Grenadier Regiment (Kampfgruppe Wilde) of the 11th Panzer Division of the Wehrmacht appeared at the level crossing on the road to Bordeaux, a few hundred metres away. A formidable unit that had fought on the Eastern Front, it was heading for the Limousin to take over from the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich. The soldiers immediately attacked the resistance fighters who had just loaded their dead and wounded onto trucks.

Meanwhile, the men commanded by François Hugon arrived from Colombat (commune of Saint-Étienne-de-Puycorbier) and posted themselves as agreed near the railway bridge (on the Saint-Front-de-Pradoux side). Their objective was to blow it up, but events did not go according to plan for them either, as the fireman who was to blow up the bridge was absent. Finally, the few German soldiers guarding the bridge defended themselves energetically and, as time went by, the situation became increasingly delicate for François’ maquisards. The latter finally had to withdraw under heavy fire from those who had just received unexpected reinforcement from their comrades of the 11th Panzer Division.

Despite the presence of German tanks, the Maquis who had remained in the town managed to get back to their trucks and head for Saint-Georges-Blancaneix. Their pursuers preferred to turn back at the edge of the forest because they did not dare to venture into an environment that could be an ambush.

The fight at Mussidan station by Armand Lamothe alias Bernard, maquisard of the 4th FTP battalion.