The first Frenchman to be liberated

The Gondrée family were the first family to be liberated in the Normandy landings of 1944. We look at Georges’ life…

Georges Gondrée was the head of the Gondrée family when it was liberated in 1944.

pegasus-bridge-cafe
The Gondrée cafe today

Georges had been born into a wealthy construction family, which led to him having a good education and he ended up working for Lloyds bank, becoming fluent in English.
​After meeting his wife, Thérése, they settled in Benouville, setting up a small café on one side of the river.
Georges despised the Germans and the way in which they had gone about occupying his country, especially the way the Germans had treated his fellow countrymen. Their resistance to the Germans was, at first, minimal, by refusing to let German soldiers billet with them, making sure every room which was habitable was being occupied by his own family.
Thérése had been born in Alsace, consequently, she could speak fluent German, leading to her listening in on German soldiers’ conversation, while they were out and about and while they were in her café! The Gondrées then passed this information on to their friends who worked in the French resistance.
Through their ingenuity, the Gondrées were able to tell the British the exact location of the trigger mechanism for the explosive charges set on the bridge, as well as the installation of an anti-tank weapon on the bridge.
The Gondrée name was well known to British intelligence and even Major John Howard had heard their name crop up during briefings.
When the men of the 6th Airborne landed, Georges ventured to his bedroom window to see what was happening, causing several rounds to be fired in his direction. Soon after he hustled his family down to the safety of the cellar.
After discovering that they had in fact been liberated, amongst tears of joy, Georges dug up almost one hundred bottles of champagne to share with his liberators. His café soon became the headquarters for the 7th Battalion.

John Howard, Georges Gondreé and David Wood reunite at Pegasus Bridge

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