Chambres d’Hôtes & Gites
France was invaded, of course, during the early stages of the Second World War. Initially, it was divided; the northern part being occupied, the southern being Free France. The border at this time ran close to Chez Jallot. This could have contributed to the fact that as the Resistance grew, this isolated manor became a centre for the local anti-war effort and Doug and Deni found various accounts of fighting that went on nearby at this time, whilst they were living here.
It is fact that the manor was used by the Secret Army. The leader, whose “nom de guerre“ was Commandant Rose, was frequently at Chez Jallot. He taught volunteers how to use weapons and how to fight.
Many of the freedom fighters, it seems, were young people who were sometimes reckless in their attacks, resulting in some very unnecessary deaths. There are many local records of ambushes that went wrong and of traitors giving away the location of hideouts with horrendous results.
The manor provided a haven for parachutists, aircrew and escapees, perhaps on their way to the southern ports for repatriation. With its many rooms and huge barn, there was room to hide a lot of people (I've heard that 70 once lived here, mostly Belgian). Madam Bonnetblanc used her medical knowledge and access to pharmaceutical supplies to give urgent help to these people. Several medical ampoules have been found buried in the grounds. Doug and Deni have also previously been told that an English doctor, a Major Foster, spent a long time here. Little is known of him other than "he always wore a monocle and had a red moustache".
As the war progressed, the whole of France was occupied. With the Allied landings in France, the occupying troops started marching north. As they did so, they sought out pockets of resistance - sometimes through the help of collaborators, and destroyed what they could. These reprisal attacks started in September 1943, and continued in the region for around 9 months. Oradour-Sur-Glane is a famous example, where over 600 were killed for no apparent reason.
By July 1944, La Creuse was under close scrutiny. Properties were being searched, and if ammunitions or papers, indeed any evidence of the Resistance was found, the properties were burnt down.
It has been told that Mme Bonnetblanc gathered what she could and set up home for a short time in a small corner of the barn. There are still the relics of habitation there.
On the 16th July 1944, troops reached Vidaillat without warning. A parachute drop a few days earlier had delivered arms and ammunitions and these were being stored in the village school awaiting distribution. When the building was searched, these were discovered, and it was set alight. It seems an elderly lady was killed, but we are not sure why. The glow from the fire could be seen from Chez Jallot and of course news spreads quickly in such circumstances.
A recent visitor - a very lively old gentleman - told what happened after that.
"That night the manor was on full alert. We all went to bed fully clothed, expecting the worst. Some people tried dressing in Madam Bonnetblanc's clothes for disguise, but she was so small, no-one could fit into them. We all slept very lightly, and a watch was kept.
Around 4 or 5 am on 17th July, we were awoken to see German troops swarming over the walls below the house. There could have been hundreds of them. Silently, we made our escape through the back of the house and into the surrounding woodlands and the safety of the night. The whole area was lit by flares, but all escaped safely."
A neighbour of Chez Jallot, Louis - a retired school teacher - takes up the story here. He lived with his parents and brother just 100m from the house. He clearly recalls that morning, watching as troops searched the manor and his own home (where they found nothing). Around 10 or 11am, the buildings were set alight. Madam Bonnetblanc (who remained at the house) was instructed to leave immediately and take nothing with her, but she was not harmed.
Louis recalls the placing of barrels of wine across the road, to try and prevent the fire spreading. "The barrels burst with the intensity of the fire, and a stream of red wine flowed down the lane".
Soon after the fire, a photo was taken of the burnt out shell, the lofty granite walls standing bleak and empty. The roof had collapsed, along with all the floors, windows, stairs; furniture and possessions were all lost.