The living conditions of the maquis

In the maquis, comfort was non-existent, clothing was problematic and hygiene was rudimentary. The many hiding places in the Dordogne where the Maquis could find refuge were very diverse: ruins or abandoned houses, stone huts, caves or underground refuges called cluzeaux in the Périgord.

In the Double, the Maquis occasionally occupied abandoned farms such as those of Jacques (Saint-André-de-Double) or Virolle (Saint-Étienne-de-Puycorbier). In Farcerie (Saint-Etienne-de-Puycorbier), in March 1944, they dug a mine, but a German operation prevented them from finishing. They could also sleep under « marabouts » made of parachute canvas. André Balès, Mickey, describes the disadvantages: « These are the parachutes that were used for dropping weapons, ammunition and supplies. Down there, sometimes it’s very hot during the day and very cold at night. When it rains heavily, if you touch the canvas, a gutter falls on you… ».

Most of the time, the men left for the maquis with the clothes they were wearing. This is why the maquisards organised, when they had the opportunity, operations to recover stocks of jackets, trousers or shoes in the youth work camps in the region.

During the summer of 1944, the maquisards of the François group seized a stock of dark blue clothes intended for the residents of the Vauclaire (Montpon-Ménestérol) asylum for the insane. In the autumn of 1944, after the liberation of the Dordogne, the maquisards positioned on the La Rochelle front changed their clothing. « We received an English uniform, the jacket and trousers, then the helmet… », remembers Albert Laborie.

Soap was scarce and fires were limited to avoid the camps being spotted. André Balès remembers the particularly poor hygiene conditions when he was stationed in June 1944 with his comrades in Saint-Georges-Blancaneix, a small village in the Landais region between Bergerac and Mussidan: « […] When we woke up in the morning, we were on the edge of a large, very dirty pond to wash. If you are brave, you wash yourself a little. If not, you wait until the next day. […]. There will be an epidemic of scabies and lice. There is nothing to cure scabies and lice, naked, shaving the hairy and the hairy and looking for each other’s lice. We couldn’t throw away or burn the clothes, because we didn’t have any spare ones.

The maquisards always set up their camp, when they can, near a water source. In Virolle, they could feed themselves thanks to the proximity of the Boulbène stream, in which they could also wash. As for natural needs, everyone manages as best they can.

Table in front of the marabouts made of parachute cloth at the Boudeau camp of the Dordogne-Nord Secret Army near Thiviers in 1944.

Shaving session in the maquis.

Drawing by Armand Lamothe, alias Bernard, of the Moulinal camp in Besse (near Villefranche-du-Périgord) of the Roland group in May 1944.