The Chasseneuil-sur-Bonnieure National Cemetery and Memorial
La nécropole de Chasseneuil ©MINDEF/SGA/DMPA
The Chasseneuil-sur-Bonnieure National Cemetery and Memorial (Nécropole nationale et mémorial de Chasseneuil-sur-Bonnieure) were erected to the memory of soldiers killed in action and of the 1,465 martyrs of the Resistance.
The Chasseneuil-sur-Bonnieure National Cemetery and Memorial (Nécropole nationale et mémorial de Chasseneuil-sur-Bonnieure) were erected shortly after WWII to the memory of soldiers killed in action and of the 1,465 martyrs of the Resistance.
Shortly after vanquishing German occupants in October 1944, a handful of soldiers and resistance fighters decided to erect a Resistance memorial in Chasseneuil-sur-Bonnieure cemetery to the memory of the men and women who had served as volunteers and fallen "Pour la liberté and la grandeur de la patrie" ("For the freedom and grandeur of the nation").
This necropolis spans over two hectares. Most of the 2,255 soldiers and resistance fighters buried here were from Southwest France. This cemetery's distinctive feature, however, is that it is perched on a hillside. A large-scale refurbishing project involved refacing the memorial, renewing the plantations and building a car park. In 2000 and 2001, a sizeable promotional drive involved publishing a flyer, providing visitor-information boards, and refurbishing the reception area and memorial crypt.
Efforts to "rekindle the flame of remembrance" began very shortly after the Liberation in October 1944, at the hands of a group of soldiers and resistance fighters under Colonel André Chabanne, who had led the Bir'Hakeim maquis and the Charente Secret Army. F. Poncelet, an architect and resistant, designed the cemetery and memorial. Work began in 1945 (German prisoners erected the buildings by hand) and ended in 1951 thanks to a franc 5,000,000 grant from the French State prompted by Félix Gaillard's 10 August 1950 speech in the National Assembly. French President Vincent Auriol (1884-1966) inaugurated this memorial on 21 October 1951 alongside Minister for War Veterans Emmanuel Temple and then Deputy Minister for National Defence Maurice Bourgès-Maunoury.
The building faces maquis bases. It is 21 metres high and features a victory V (the emblem of the Resistance) and the Cross of Lorraine. Considerable financial and physical resources went into this memorial. It took five years to build, cost francs 13,000,000, and weighs 2,000 tonnes.
The blocks weigh as much as two tonnes each. The bas-reliefs span 80 sq m. Builders had to dig a 1,125 sq m hole for the 2,000 cubic metres of concrete and 30 tonnes of steel used to build the crypt and nine supporting pillars.
Messrs Peyronnet, Guiraud and Lamourdedieu carved the bas-reliefs depicting the lives of civilian and military resistance fighters, and their sacrifices to liberate France. The 28 alcoves in the crypt hold the remains of 30 fighters, including Colonel Chabanne and the military delegate for Southwest France Region B. Visitors entering the crypt will see an inscription overhead: "Français, ne les oubliez pas" ("People of France, do not forget them").
ONAC de la Haute Vienne
6 rue Haute de la Comédie - 87000 LIMOGES
Tél. : +33 (0)555 33 51 30
Tourism Office Haute-Charente
Maison des Lacs - 16310 Massignac
Tel : 05.45.65.26.69
Fax : 05.45.64.90.83
Chasseneuil-sur-Bonnieure is 30 km from Oradour-sur-Glane, on the road from Limoges to Angoulême.
Cemetery and memorial admission is free of charge all year round. Guided tours are available working days and by appointment on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays.
05 45 39 65 21