COMING SOON: ‘LA NUEVE’ — 24 August 1944. The Spanish Republicans who liberated Paris by Evelyn Mesquida. Preface by Jorge Semprún and afterword by General Michel Roquejeoffre. £12.00/ €16.00 / $19.00 (+ p+p). Publication date: 5 January 2015. Limited print edition of 100 copies so advance orders (cheque, cash or Paypal, to firstname.lastname@example.org) are essential. Hopefully copies should be available before Xmas.
Officers, NCOs and soldiers of the 9th Company of the 3rd March Regiment of Chad, ‘La Nueve’. First row, l-r: Martín Bernal, Antonio Gualda, Bullosa, Zubierta, Domínguez ‘el Extremeño’, José Cortés, Domínguez ‘el Valencia’, Blanco, Lt. Campos ‘el Canario’, Amado Granell, Sarasqueta, Captain Dronne, Montoya, Federico Moreno, Salvador, Antonio. Others include: Lozano, Pradas, Pedro Castillo, LLorden, Juán Molina, Delgado, Elías, Escudero, Royo, Antonio Curto, Felipe Rodríguez ‘el Feo’, Antonio Sanchez, Salinas, Anarés Carayón, Juán Fuentes, Ginés Martinez ‘el Gallego’, Valero ‘el Sevilla’, Gutiérrez, Fernando Moreno, Antonio Muela, Vazquez, Hernández, Jordi Gomis, Luís Morales, Andrés Castillo, Santi, Liébana, Antonio Navarro ‘Carapalo’, Abenza, Baños, Pablo Cañero ‘el Murciano’, Llesta, Clarasó, Floreal, Jacinto Paniagua y Fábregas. A number of the men chose not to appear in the official photograph citing their past activities and possible future involvement in clandestine anti-Francoist activities. Lt. Campos, for example, and his other anarchist comrades of ‘La Nueve’ set up arms and materiel caches for the urban and rural guerrillas of the Defence Commission of the Spanish Libertarian Movement (MLE) in exile.
They are the heroes from a hidden page of history, the soldiers of ‘La Nueve’, No 9 company of General Leclerc’s renowned 2nd Armoured Division (DB). According to the history books, the liberation of Paris began on 25 August 1944 when General Leclerc’s 2e Division Blindée (2e DB) entered the city via the Porte d’Orléans. In fact, Leclerc began the push earlier, on 24 August, when he ordered Captain Dronne, commander of No 9 Company, to enter Paris without delay. Dronne thrust towards the city centre via the Porte d’Italie at the head of two sections from No 9 Company, better known as ‘La Nueve’.
The first vehicle from ‘La Nueve’ reached the Place d l’Hôtel de Ville on 24 August 1944 shortly after 8.00 p.m., “German time”. Amado Granell – Paris’s very first liberator! – climbed down from his half-track to be greeted inside the city hall by Georges Bidault, president of the National Resistance Council, Jean Moulin’s successor. Granell, like 146 out of the ‘La Nueve’s’ 160 men, was a Spanish republican!
The Battle of Paris cost the 2nd Armoured Division the lives of 71 men and 225 wounded. Material losses included 35 tanks, six self-propelled guns, and 111 vehicles.
On 26 August, General De Gaulle strode down the Champs Élysées accompanied by four vehicles from ‘La Nueve’ acting as his escort and protection detail. The procession was led by Amado Granell and his armoured car.
Survivors of the Spanish Revolution and the civil war against Franco, having enlisted in the Free French army, the Spaniards of ‘La Nueve’ — anarchists, socialists, communists and republicans — went on to liberate Alsace and Lorraine and continued fighting relentlessly into Germany as far as the Nazi heartland in the Obersalzberg in the Bavarian Alps. Of the 146 men who landed in Normandy, only 16 survived to be the first to enter Hitler’s Berchtesgaden Eagle’s Nest.
Evelyn Mesquida has done justice to these heroes of freedom, honouring the pledge she made to the survivors. Journalist and writer Evelyn Mesquida, is honorary chair of the Foreign Press Association in Paris and vice-chair of the European Press Club. She is the author of La Mémoire entre silence et l’oubli. Les soldats oubliés de la libération de Paris (Presses de l’université de Laval, Québec, 2006) and of Sorties de guerre des hommes de ‘la Nueve’ (Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2008)