The Lapierre story

Forgotten resistance history at the Normandy coast, prelude to D-Day

Research by the War Heritage Detection Program, Museum of the Resistance HBFV
Jo Peeters – Sofie Van Krunkelveldt


The end of february 2013.

My GPS unit is guiding me into a small street on the right, leaving the N860 between Houffalize and La Roche-en Ardenne. A small road, cutting slopes between the endless meadows, leading downhill to one of those typical small villages of the Belgian Ardennes region. The first time I heard about Filly in those days.

It seemed one of those tiny communities, transformed into "gîtes", old farms and sheds being transformed into 'bed & breakfasts ' during the years. Cornering the last piece of the road into the center, I reached my destination.

The former Balthazar farm became the scene of a barnfind that would change my world forever. The shed in front of the farm was housing the remains of an old demounted motorcycle and several parts and documents. Simply being interested to find a WWII era French Motobécane to restore, I didn't know it would be the start of a 4 year historical trip, becoming a research leading me into France.

This paper is more then a summary of our research to me. It's a homage to those, who had chosen to revolt against the warmachine of a dictator. Some of them, just got lost in time. They never claimed their actions. No one asked about their whereabouts.

We entered into the reflections of those clandestine lifes we know now by the recorded testimonials in the years after the war by those who lived it. Some of them even never did – they kept their memories for themselves. Several of those 'soldiers of the shadows ' , never reached official recognition, they simply got lost by death or their will to forget the horror.

Our resources are supported and based upon profound fieldwork, digging into archives and comfirming the authenticity of our discoveries, since it has been more then seven decades that have passed away.

In some stages of the process, my research was refuting some historical facts or shaping them differently. Introducing them and initiating new facts wasn't and still isn't the easiest way. But I keep in mind that we don't own history, we have to remain curious and keep it preserved the best way we can.

This is a work that remains in progress. I don't pretend it to be 'historical error free', but reconstructed to the best of our resources.

Jo Peeters

Curator of the Museum HBFV

The first encounter…

Shortly in the afternoon of February 23, 2013, we got the first view on the part of the motorcycle that was up for sale, a Motobécane type B33. Hidden behind a garagedoor in a small borough of Houffalize, were the rusty remains of the bike. "It was found by Joseph Balthazard" he said, " it was pulled out of the woods here after the war". I was quiet mistrustful to this arguments, sounding like a good sales pitch. I decided to get the things and bits in the open, to get a clear view on the matter under the pale wintersun. A quick refer to the chassisnumber assured me of it's production date : 1933. 

As claimed by the seller, the motorcycle was pulled apart in the 80's to get it restored. Put it was a project that never got further then this. It was kept in the small shed, on the other side of the street. The small bits where collected in two wooden boxes, also containing plastic bags with papers, giving a very moldy impression. A kind of wooden box, transformed with metal hooks to be attached to the bikes frame was also there. The man reached into one of them and said : " it's a bike from a French guy, during the war . Look here ! " Taking the small document in my hand, it was the first time I got a view of this man, on a tiny black and white picture.  

The picture I took of the drivers license in the garage. With German stamps (not over the picture itself ) and the Seine-et-Oise indication, refering to the Paris region. Lapierre – Armand – Jean on the top, dated 19/02/1942

I got convinced of the fact, this was a real war relic. The other documents were kind of stuck in the plastic, due to the mold, so I deceided not to make effort to get them out on the spot.

The deal was done and I started loading my purchase on the trailer. Driving home, I was excited and wondered who was this man on the picture.

The diary and other documents.

Lots of the sheets inside the plastic bags where not recoverable. Destroyed by rats and mice, matted by the results of water and mold. In the second bag, I found even newspapers from the 70's, an old telephonebook and christmascards. A small booklet containing molded paper sheets.

Several of them had some pencil writing on it. Hard to read. Only the first sheets inside were accessable. I still remenber the feeling and thrill, when I managed to read a '1944 date'. Some sheets were still attached to the cover, most of them were loose and mixed up.
But I realised it was the diary of this 'Lapierre 477


The small booklet that was in a very moulded shape, 32 pages could be restored.
The Armand Lapierre collection is part of the Museum of the Resistance HBFV archives in Belgium.

The selection of 9 sheets essential to the Normandy sabotage.

Due to the nature of the old wartime paper and the writing in pencil, a serious restoration was needed. I wanted this to be preserved as best as possible. Also to get as much of information as possible.

In the second bag, I went through the contents piece by piece.
About 8 sheets with the same diary-style, but typed with a typewriter. By the nature of them, they had always been folded in to a small shape. They became the start of my research, during the resoration of the 'pencil-papers ' , unaware at that moment of the fact they would play a key role in the link between Armand's whereabouts, his link to the Réseau Alliance and the Réseau PTT at the Normandy region, introduced by 'Guillot'.

After research of this sheet I call 'the KEY' , this document puts Armand in the 16th district of Paris at the end of May 1944. The 'BV' stands for Boulainvilliers. He seems to be hiding with Maurice and Marie at number 19, probably Rue de Boulainvilliers, giving him access to a typewriter. The link to Tadorne ( Jean Truffaux ) is mentioned.

Keys of the research

The diary and added sheets would be my guideline throughout my investigation. I always wondered : how did this motorcycle and papers end up in Belgium ? This Lapierre ending up in the Filly maquis ?
The restoration of the "pencil papers" pretty much solved that question and shaped my vision on this matter on how he ended up in Belgium, attached to the US 83th Rec Armored Batallion of the BIG RED ONE, 1st ID.
His identity was hard to find. Armand Lapierre remained a mistery in matters of Paris population registers.
A small paper, attached tot he last page with a staple indicates his name and "MALESTROIT – 23 Hataile". This gave a lead to the family branch of Gaston Lapierre, who gave shelter to several downed airmen in his home in Malestroit and organised evasion for them to Paris. This so called "Pat O'Leary" network got compromised and Gaston Lapierre was arrested in 1943. The same moment Armand arrives in Paris permanently. We can presume the arrests made Armand move to the capital, away from the Morbihan region to continue his work. 

Armand knew the city of Paris very well. His limited recovered writing shows good local knowledge and probability however. I decided it to be an open trail. Secondly his recovered citation, dating September 22, 1944 on the French-Belgian border, executed by commander Point of the FFI, shows his courage during the liberation period. Most important were the facts that were written or typed, a logical deduction of the facts by continued analysis.
Three years later in september 2016, a second and unexpected 'lifeline', as I call it, came from de village of Noville in Belgium, by a testimony from mister Bastin, 9 years old and neighbour of this Balthazar family in 1944. They used to shelter resistance members at that time… he had seen this 'rather small postured man in the shed'. He brought food to him several times, in december 1944. Suddenly – this story led us into the Battle of the Bulge, resistance members back to the maquis, real close to the place where I found the motorcycle.

December 2016 offered a third unveiling, by the determination of Armand and FFI Group Guillot , putting them in Flémalle ( Liège ) during the period of liberation in september 1944. A call on social media led to a beautiful picture offered by mister Dormal, taken at the Quai de Haie on the 7th of September 1944, when the US 83th RAB liberated Liège.

The picture of the Guillot group, with on top, second from the left Francois Guillot and Armand next to him.

"Liaison" to the intelligence network

The lack of access to his original and complete writing made it harder to determine the fact of his collaboration with intelligence networks. Everything was reduced to 32 pages, often not combined by the loss of pages or destruction by moisture.

Studying the timeline of the Réseau Alliance, making it's third revival after the heavy losses due to betrayal , Gestapo retaliations and moving to Paris on July 16th 1943, poses a link to this service.
Armand is the "letterbox", designated as the 'Relais de Muette ', for one of the agents from the 'FERME' region, situated at the Calvados sector of Normandy. His contact with "Tadorne" from Alliance is well written in his diary, but not the other side he was transferring the information for...
During our research, one name of a street in Paris gave it away, combined with this "E.H.", being a mistery figure for us all the time.
The key paper is the testimony by Jean Louis Vigier, written in 1968 ( Historique du Réseau Maurice, Les Portes de la Liberté - PRIVAT. EAN : 9782708986046 ).
Jean tells about the "Réseau Maurice" and it's section in Paris called "Group Maurice 9 ", organised by HUMBERT. Jean explains about the several "boîtes aux lettres" and the new members attached to the service when they moved from Toulouse to Paris. In the last months before D-Day, about 11 of these "boîtes aux lettres" were listed in the 16th and 11th district of Paris.
But one place in the list, is the "Rue Charles Tellier nr 4 ". The "Charles Tellier" is mentioned in Armand's diary, where he meets this "E.H.", giving him instructions. And it's only 1.5 km from his hidingplace in the Rue de Boulainvilliers. 

As mentioned before, in the earlier writings he mentions 'TADORNE', refering to Jean Truffaux, attached to the Ferme section and Jean Caby in Villers-Bocage. He made several trips to Paris during 1943 and 1944. Armand tells in his writing about March 16th 1944, the fact of him not showing up at the rendez-vous point, presumably in the surroundings of Boulainvilliers railwaystation.

Consultating the history of the Alliance timeline, that was quiet logical : Jean Truffaux got caught by the Gestapo, together with several other agents.

 The beginning of the end of the offical Alliance network. The Ferme region will be the scene of multiple arrests in the days after, beheading the network and leading up to captivity for it's members in Caen. In his 'pencil-papers' Armand refers to them just before D-Day as "our heros in Caen, about to be set free". Sadly – wishfull thinking, since the prisoners were executed by the Germans on the morning of D-Day, leaving their bodies never to be recovered…  

Page 30 from the "Pencil papers", written on June 5, 1944. Armand says: " Et, pas oublier nos héros à Caen, leur libérté s'approche ! He was well aware of their enprisonment.  

Our presence at the commemoration at the formar prison of Caen on June 6th, 2016 for the first time. A very emotional moment… We saw Jean Caby's picture on the wall.

Tadorne presumably carried vital information on the entire structure of the FERME network of the Calvados region. One should ask the question why – as it seems an irrational act to carry this critical information to Paris. One plausible explanation is a demand by the Alliance headquarters. The 'Conseil Nationale de la Résistance' ( CNR ) planned a secret meeting on March 15, 1944.

Armand never mentions any contact with the higher command of Réseau Alliance at the "garçonnerie". If we consider the 19/BV at Maurice and Marie as his hideout, he was very close to the place.
The only contacts that confirm are the meetings at " Café de Cluny ", situated at the Boulevard St. Michel in Paris ( 5th district ) .

The agent he calls E.H. is still unknown, but he or she remained active and influenced Armand to go the Calvados region . 

The complete network diagram, linking Armand to the Réseau Maurice, the CND , Réseau PTT and Réseau Alliance.

Answer to the call and trip to Caen.

On May 28, 1944 Armand is arranging his trip to the railwaystation of St. Pierre in Caen. It seems that the trip was planned, including a visit to Rouen. 'Le rapide' is the fast train between Paris and Rouen, but it wasn't available ( by our research we found out that during the morning of May 28, the railwaystation, including a train were hit by allied bombing in Rouen. This also implies that this typing was done in the afternoon ). Presumably, he would continue his trip further towards Caen.

E.H. ( unknown ) will join him. Armand is glad to be able to 'separate the load '. In psycho-analysis this means that Armand is not aware of real nature of his trip and he is just continuing his mission as before. He probably presumes this ' Guillot ' ( he types "Gilot", not knowing him ) to be his new liaison.

Introduction to the "grande coupure "

Page 29 of the "Pencil Papers" is the first of the pencil written part that remained. This means that any information between his actual trip and arriving in Colleville-sur-Mer is lost. We can only presume he met Guillot as planned and he introduced him to the evolutions that were ahead. He must have insisted, because he was present at the "cabane de Cabourg"…

Due to the nature of the sabotage actions and timeframe, there is a high probability that Guillot was linked to the Réseau PTT by Etienne Bobo .
Etienne and François knew eachother by the visits from Etienne to the Guillot family, running a café at the " Passous de Coutainville " ( Agon-Coutainville ). Maurice Guillot was the commander of the Agon resistance section. From there, Etienne moved the only machinepistol they had to Beaucoudray and even Caen on his bicycle !

A testimony from Henri Le Veillé ( May 6, 1956 : Centre National. Etudes PTT 6 rue Pierre Bourdan - PARIS 12è ), being " Responsable Régional du Réseau PTT" clearly explains the sabotages on the German telephone lines during the night of June 5, 1944. They cutted the telephonelines from the bunkers towards the German High Command Post for the whole coastline of the Calvados and Manche, situated in Basly . Also communication towards the "Central de Bernay " was interrupted, so inland communnication by wire was down.

The Calvados sabotages were executed under the command of Henri himself, Pierre CORNILLET, Marcel DELAHAYE et Albert LAUNAY.

For Bayeux and Port-en-Bessin, Léonard CAMPS dit "Franco " from Bayeux took the lead. He is presumed to be present at the sabotages at la Chenevière ( Château Gosset ) and 'le Bouffay' (Commes), according to the testimony in Armand's diary.

The Manche sabotages ( so also the one at la Madeleine ), were organised by Ernest PRUVOST, Etienne Bobo, Marcel RICHER, Augustin Lemaresquier and Clément SEGER.
Etienne Bobo dit "BOZON" is well described in Armand's journal, when he wrote down Guillot's testimony on the La Madeleine sabotage, several hours before the landings.
Ernest Pruvost was in charge for the La Madeleine section.

Finding Etienne Bobo.

After some research on the Réseau PTT association, I got in contact by phone with Mme Couzeau when we were in Maison near Port-en-Bessin. Mme Couzeau still holds the archives of her late husband who was the son of one of the Réseaux PTT members that were executed in Beaucoudray. On a rainy day in september 2017, we drove over to her house about 25 kms east of St. Lô, the Manche. A very friendly lady welcomed us into her house and a large amount of documents were already displayed on the table.
We were stunned by the details and information her husband collected by the years. But, important to us, was the information on "Bozon", this Etienne Bobo. She already had searched together the documents and pictures she had on this maquisard.

And there it was. A genuine picture of Etienne. And his history, being a native of Perpignan. Told by a Joseph Cadère, who was personal friend of him when Etienne worked in St. Lô during the war. An original picture rose at the scene. The first time we saw him in such a detail, a handsome man at that time !

In 1999, even a street in Perpignan was named after Etienne Bobo, according to this testimony of Joseph Cadère and the Commision des Fusillés de Beaucoudray.

The friendly Mme Couzeau, helped us in such a detail !

The original picture that was send by Joseph Cadène in 1999.

And then the key to our research, when a short writing appeared on the back of a letter, a copy that was communicated in 1999, done by mister Crouzeau at that time . The information about Etienne and the place where he was burried in St. Lô, with a name on the right : "Bozon"… exactly like it's mentioned in Armand's diary !

Etienne Bobo was killed on June 15, 1944. Guillot tells this to Armand on June 29, 1944 (Armand's diary). In reality, Etienne "Bozon" was caught by het SS raid on June 14th, on the small Maquis de Beaucoudray from Réseau PTT, 20 kms from Saint-Lô. A sad story was sinking in on us… Their body's weren't recovered until the end of august 1944.

The original picture of the first memorial plate in 1945, on the spot where these resistance men where executed and burried in a shallow grave.. Today, a monument and memorial site is standing on the same place in Beaucoudray.

But however, we were glad that Etienne wasn't a man who was forgotten in time. He is well commemorated and honored. We just added a little link to one of the sabotage actions these men did, several hours before liberation. Even the day after, he would be present east of St. Lô, destroying the telephonelines between St. Lô and Cherbourg. These men executed "Plan Violet" in the best way they could.

We were gratefull for Mme Couzeau's uge help and kindness and made our way back thrue the countrysides of the Manche towards the Calvados coastline.

Back to the cabanne and the sabotage at Colleville, Port-en-Bessin and Commes

Our visit to madame Pineau, the key in our research on the 'cabane de Cabourg ', 2017

Map with the June 1944 situation of Omaha Beach.The 'cabane' indicated on the highest
point of the Cabourg area. From there, the Kommandantur, the German strongholds and trenches on the western side of the Wn were visible. Some of the fields were accessable by civilians by a "laissez-passez", during daytime until April 1944. After Rommel's visit to the Atlantic Wall, all access to the hights got prohibited. He was well aware of the Allied threat.

Next to the introduction of 22 reliable men, Michel Pineau explains the location where the destruction of the telephone lines has to be conducted. These points of connection with the inland telephone structures were made in "kabelbrunnen "

Map of the situation in Colleville-sur-Mer in 1944. The connectionpoint is
situated behind the Chemineau farm.

Front view of the entry doorplate of the "kabelbrunnen", behind the
Chemineau farm, Colleville-sur-Mer. Only the top is still visible.

Page 30 of the "pencil papers" : Armand mentions the destruction of the Hasler connectors and the taking of the 3v back-up batteries from the same structure by 'Franco'. This 'Franco' is Léonard Camps, part of the Réseau PTT.