A couple of days after my last post on the subject, two more amazing individuals were celebrated in obituaries on the same day, again heroes from the French Resistance and the Royal Air Force.
Germaine Tillion\'s story of resistance whilst she continued her distinguished academic career in Paris connects with a controversy which I was made vaguely aware of in Paris last month. There was an eeriness about posters in the Marais promoting an exhibition of wartime colour photographs; this district is the old Jewish quarter and is scattered with simple plaques recording the transportation of men, women and children to the extermination camps. The posters showed a lively, chic, mid 20th century Parisian street scene with no sense of anything untoward to place it in the Occupation except for a single, relaxed feldgrau-clad figure mingling with the crowd. This show, The Parisians under the Occupation has aroused criticism and anger because, in the words of the organisers, what André Zucca, the photographer working for the Nazi propaganda magazine Signal, portrays, not surprisingly, is “a casual, even carefree Paris. He has opted for a vision that does not show - or hardly shows - the reality of occupation and its tragic aspects: waiting lines in front of food shops, rounding up of Jews, posters announcing executions." After her war, which included two years in the women's concentration camp at Ravensbrück, which most, including her mother, did not survive, Tillion continued her career as an ethnologist and a champion of human rights and lived to over 100.
The second hero was Wing Commander Patrick Gibbs . He flew Bristol Beaufort torpedo bombers. There isn\'t an Osprey book on this type but it is mentioned in ACE 65: Beaufighter Aces of World War II because the better-known night fighter was derived from it. The Beaufort was slow and vulnerable to fighter attack and occurs more often in other titles as a kill for Me 109s and 110s, but flying from Malta under Gibbs\' leadership and in his hands, it played a key part in the strangulation of the Axis supply line to North Africa. Gibbs\' two books about his wartime experiences, written during the war, Not Peace but a Sword and Torpedo Leader are still in print, the first described by a reviewer as “a classic of its genre”. In his much more gentle peacetime life as a theatre critic enjoying wine and opera, Gibbs, like so many of this generation, rarely talked about his exploits but, along with his personal contribution at strategic as well as combat level, he has bequeathed in his writing a valuable record of an important but not well-documented aspect of the war in the Mediterranean.
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