The forest of Manises is situated in northwestern France to the north of Charleville-Mézières, between the towns of Revin and Fumay. It is a picturesque part of the Ardennes region, mountainous, covered in pine forest, and situated close to the Belgian border. On the outskirts of Revin stands a monument labelled, 'Aux Mortes Du Maquis des Manises' which bears over 100 names. The monument stands just outside the town on a small winding road leading into the forest. It is a carefully selected site and overlooks the valley of the river Meuse which runs through Revin. The names engraved are all of males aged 17 or over. They are grouped to show family ties, brothers, fathers, sons and is as sobering a sight as the graveyards of Normandy or the Somme. To stand and read the names is a humbling experience. Because of the self sacrifice of these people, this seemingly terrible waste of human life, we are able now to live the lives that we do.
The Maquis des Manises was involved in resistance activities and the hiding and repatriation of allied aircrew shot down over France. When Operation Overlord was launched on the 6 June 1944, the various resistance movements all over France were mobilized to cause maximum disruption to German communications and troop movements. Playing their part, 250 maquisards of the Maquis des Manises engaged 3000 SS and French Vichy troops in combat in the forest area. This action no doubt delayed the mobilization of these German troops to Normandy, which in turn may have facilitated the consolidation of Allied positions on the Normandy beachheads.
Such a one-sided action could have only one outcome. Of the 250 maquisards, 150 were taken and on 13 June 1944, of these captured combatants, 105 were selected for execution. They were taken to a location in the forest where graves had already been dug and they were shot. They were buried with 4 or 5 individuals to each grave. When allied forces arrived in the area at the beginning of September, the graves were opened and the bodies removed to the town´s cemetery for reburial. The graves in the forest have been preserved and a Calvary has been erected among them. The monument is the site of an annual memorial service on 13 June, the anniversary of the murders, to give local people and others the opportunity of remembering and of paying homage to these brave men. The memorial service is attended by hundreds of people, of all ages, who come to pay their respects as each name is read out in turn. The service is concluded with the playing of 'La Marseillaise'.
Those maquisards who were not executed on 13 June were sent to concentration camps. The first name on plate 2 (see blog) under the title word 'Honneur' is English, Hubble Desmond Ellis (http://www.seiflow.co.uk/Desmond%20Hubble.htm). Desmond Hubble was a captain in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and had been sent to co-ordinate the activities of resistance movements in the area. He was captured on 12 June and later sent to Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany (http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Buchenwald/index.html). He was incarcerated there with the man who had originally recruited him to SOE, Wing Commander Forest Yeo-Thomas, codenamed White Rabbit. Yeo-Thomas managed to escape and made it back to allied lines but on 11 September 1944, Hubble was executed by means of slow strangulation. His name also adorns the war memorial at Bayeux which honours those who died in the battle for Normandy as well as those who died giving their support to the Normandy invasion. (http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Overseas/bayeux.html). He is honoured with equal respect at the memorial service in the forest bearing my name.