Historyline 24

The Escapee

Today we want to continue the story of Bernat Olivé Vilaplana.

After our #protagonist escaped Bédarieux (Hérault) in a german car, he went to a Maquisard camp (Bosc d’Orp, Bedarieux). There he worked as a liaison for the French resistance. This group of maquisards, once Paris was liberated, received a tribute in Montpellier.

Encouraged by his comrade Julien Pulli, an army corporal, he continued to fight the Germans. He first tried it with the RICM (Régiment d’Infanterie Coloniale du Maroc), troops from French colonial Africa who were then in Montpellier, and with the Foreign Marching Legion. He eventually became a soldier in the French regular army, was part of the convoy of trucks, jeeps, and tanks, and drove a reconnaissance and discovery truck of the German enemy from Lunelle to Lyon. Here he took part in a dangerous action that successfully broke the German resistance. As a result, he was awarded the Silver War Cross.

In early 1945, the French Army sent him to Montbeliard, in the territory of Bellfort. His unit was pushing the Germans back to Seppois le Bas, the first village in Alsace. The fighting was fierce and many comrades were killed. They liberated many Alsatian populations. His group continued to push the Germans back to Plörsheim and Blesheim. From there, with the support of the American army, they reached Manheim and Kürzel. After several operations in which he showed extraordinary courage, he was awarded the Bronze Star Cross of War, among other decorations.

With the demobilization, the RICM sent him to Indochina, but he demobilized and went to Paris, where he settled in August 1945 at the home of a cousin. Shortly afterward, he moved to Perpignan, where he settled, found a job as a driver for an agricultural cooperative in Le Soler (Department of Oriental Pyrenees) married and had a daughter, Maryse.

After living in Vinçà (Department of Oriental Pyrenees) for a few years, in 1965 he returned to Catalonia, in Balaguer (Lleida), as a French technician to advise a company on the processes of freezing fruit. In Balaguer, he lived until the time of the Democratic Transition and when Franco died he began to explain his anti-fascist past in Spain and France and returned to the military politically. In 1982 he came to live in Darnius, his wife’s village, and in 1985 he obtained dual nationality. He currently lives in Figueres.

In 2008 he donated much of his documentation of exile and World War II to the MUME. It can be seen at the MUME in the space of Witnesses and documentary legacies of exile, in the permanent exhibition.

From so far to so close.

* These materials are licenced under a CC BY-NC License for free access.