The invasion of the so-called free zone (11 November 1942)

8th November 1942: Anglo-American troops land in North Africa.

11th November: During Operation Anton, the Germans and Italians invade the so-called free zone, now called the « southern zone ». The occupied zone is called the « northern zone ». Wehrmacht units settle in Périgueux.

27th November: Scuttling of the French fleet in Toulon harbour on the orders of the Vichy regime’s Admiralty to avoid its capture intact by the Third Reich.

30th November: Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe units moved into Bergerac.

On 11 November 1942, in the Dordogne, the French soldiers of the 26th Infantry Regiment positioned on the demarcation line were ordered not to resist the invasion of the occupied zone by German troops. They watched helplessly as elements of the 3rd SS Totenkopf armoured division crossed the demarcation line. The 100,000 men of the armistice army, present in the free zone, were demobilised and sent back to their homes.

When they woke up, the inhabitants of Mussidan discovered the German convoys passing in large numbers in the direction of Périgueux. About fifteen soldiers set up in the town to guard the pumping station and the railway bridge.

On 11 November, a formation of German soldiers took up position at the barracks of the 35th Artillery Regiment in Périgueux. A few days later, the German Security Police or Sipo-SD, better known as the Gestapo, took up residence on the first floor of the Crédit Lyonnais building. Finally, on 30 November, Wehrmacht units moved into Bergerac while a Luftwaffe unit took over the Roumanière airfield.

On arriving in the free zone, the German authorities discovered considerable stocks of French army weapons and vehicles. Indeed, since the defeat, the Camouflage du matériel (CDM), a clandestine organisation created in the summer of 1940 within the general staff, had been hiding weapons, ammunition, vehicles and various equipment in order to prepare the revenge against Germany.

In the Dordogne, the CDM soldiers operated under the protection of Joachim Clech, commander of the department’s gendarmerie company. He was also in charge of the Perigord section of the Vénus-Kleber network, an army intelligence network. Arrested by the Gestapo in July 1943, he was deported. The CDM was quickly dismantled

dismantled after the invasion of the free zone. Hubert Faure, employed at the Ribérac town hall to look after the supply commission, was one of the members of the CDM. In an area stretching from Ribérac to Beauronne, near Mussidan, his mission was to check the good maintenance of the camouflaged army’s equipment. Following an imprudence by his sector leader, « arrested with the whole organisation chart of the CDM written in black and white on a notebook », Hubert Faure remembers, he had to flee. After a long journey that took him through Spain, Hubert Faure joined London, then Free France. He joined the legendary Kieffer commando which landed on the beaches of Normandy on 6 June 1944.