The vehicles of the Maquis

Before the Second World War, cars were still rare in the Dordogne and only a few privileged notables owned one. Then, the census of vehicles imposed by the Vichy government for requisition purposes dissuaded their owners from using them. In addition, there was a shortage of tyres, spare parts and petrol, which were reserved for a few professions (such as doctors) or for the forces of order and collaborators.

This situation forced the maquisards to travel on foot or in oxen or horse-drawn carts. « We only had one car. We also had a Studebaker truck, which Soupape often drove, but that was later », recalls Abel Brouage, a maquisard in the Double forest.

Gradually, the resistance fighters completed their equipment with tractors and requisitioned trucks. They also used vans borrowed from transporters. The names of some of them have come down to us: the brothers Guy and Edmond Delcoral from Mussidan, who were themselves later maquisards, a man named Allain from Montpon, Raymond Laporte from Les Lèches.

As fuel was scarce, some of the maquis vehicles ran on gas, a system that produced combustible gas from wood or charcoal. The resistance fighters also used alcohol mixed with turpentine, which often led to misfires and backfires. Maurice Denoix, from the Roland group, remembers using benzol, which was used by the Mercier establishments in Mussidan to make wax: « It worked very well in the cars, but it consumed much more!

As for the bicycles and the rare motorbikes owned by the Resistance fighters, they were mainly used by the Maquis liaison officers. Their role was essential, as they ensured contact with other groups and organisations in the vicinity, and between their organisation and their leadership. Liaison officers also need to have a good memory to remember locations, the aliases of the people they are to meet and the information they are to pass on. Finally, they need to be in good physical condition to travel dozens or even hundreds of kilometres of roads and paths in varying degrees of condition.

The activity of liaison officers is particularly risky, as they may at any time come up against enemy vehicles or a roadblock. This was the case of Maurice Bonnet, of the Kléber group, who was killed on 23 June 1944 near Villamblard while maintaining contact with a group of Resistance fighters in the sector.

Drawing by Armand Lamothe, alias Bernard, of a cart pulled by a horse or a mule used by the Resistance fighters to transport equipment.

Napoleon and Juju, Ernest Ortolan, in the woods of Lunas on 17 June 1944 with their Berliet truck running on gas.

Two Thiviers garages repairing a Peugeot van in a Dordogne-Nord Secret Army camp in the Thiviers area in 1944.

Drawing by Armand Lamothe, alias Bernard, of a Citroën 7, known as the Traction Avant, widely used by the maquisards