DoB: 25 March 1920.
On the eve of World War II, Jean THOMAS enlisted in the 39th Infantry Regiment, based in Rouen, Normandy. During the German invasion, on 14 May 1940, he fought against General Rommel's troops crossing the River Meuse in Belgium. As a result of his actions he was promoted to sergeant and awarded the War Cross. Having been captured as a Prisoner of War (POW) he was sent to a Stalag Prison Camp1 before being transferred to a Kommando in Upper Silesia. He escaped from there, but was recaptured after five nights on the run.
His second escape also resulted in his being captured at the Dutch border. After his recapture he was hospitalised for six months. Upon his return to France he joined the French Resistance. Through one of his fellow escapees, he gained contact with the Franco-Belgian escape network, the 'Comet Line', which sent British downed pilots to Spain so that they could return to Britain2. By so doing, he hoped that he might join the Free French Forces in London. He also liaised with M. DRAGON, the Norman head of the 'Resistance Movement' and helped him in distributing the underground newspaper.
False documents to enter Spain.
click to enlarge the picture.
In March 1943, with former captivity friends, he enlisted in the Fighting French Forces as a member of the 'Charette network' which was directed by Michel CAILLAU, general de Gaulle's nephew. He collected intelligence on prisoner camps from repatriated POWs and reported on the German defensive layout along the coast.
|- about the POW camps||- about British aircrafts landing|
Charrette network. Microfilm questionnaires:
click to enlarge the picture.
|10 June 1945, a month
after returning from Dachau.
In charge of organising the Charette resistance network in the North of France, he participated in fusing this network with two other POW cells3, thereby creating the National Movement for Prisoners of War and Deportees, of which he became the Head for Normandy.
When about to take part in the liberation of Rouen, he was arrested by the Gestapo during a visit to Paris on 18 April 1944. He was brutally interrogated and then incarcerated in Fresnes. On 2 July 1944, he was sent from Compiegne to Dachau via the 'Death Train'. Out of 100 prisoners in his wagon, 74 died. Having been sent to Neckargerach camp, he was made to dig underground galleries within Kommando Olbicht. Exhausted, he was transferred on 20 December 1944 to Vaihingen camp, a place where deportees, unable to work, were insufficiently fed and left to die. Out of 120 companions who arrived with him, 99 died within the first 4 months. Jean THOMAS was transferred back to Dachau before the liberation of Vaihingen by the French troops. Suffering from typhus, he weighed just 38 kilos when the camp was liberated.
He later resumed his career in the Army, first as an Infantry officer and later in the Logistic Corps. He subsequently became head of an important pension fund and was elected mayor of La Bouille town. As a Vice President of the French Association of Dachau camp, he wrote his memoire: 'Up to the Rivulet'. The title pays reference to a place in Vaihingen camp.
He was married in 1946 and blessed with three children.
1 Prisoner of War camp
2 3,000 Royal Air Force pilots returned to Britain at the cost of 500 patriots being shot or dying during deportation.
3 One of which was directed by Francois Mitterrand.