Edgard de Larminat

Portrait of Edgard de Larminat. Source: SHD


(29th November 1895: Alès, Gard - 1st July 1962: Paris)


Eligible for Saint-Cyr in 1914, the class of the "Great Return", Edgard de Larminat, whose father was a Forest and Waterways Officer, continued the family tradition dating back to the 17th century of service to the state. Raised amongst the Jesuit community of Montfré and Les Postes, he attended high schools in Gap and Troyes and signed up at the age of 19 as a simple soldier in the 27th Infantry Regiment. Posted to the 134th, he undertook special studies as a student at Saint-Cyr and then joined in turn the 321st and 121st Infantry Regiments. Promoted to Captain in September 1917, he ended the war with four mentions on the military order of the day and was wounded three times, including once by gas (March 1918), having proved exemplary bravery at the fort de Vaux where he had been wounded by an exploding shell in June 1916. Because of this he would be singled out by the Légion d'honneur. With an independent nature and curious about distant horizons, he joined the marines (colonial army) in 1919 when his training at saint Cyr was completed. Sent to Morocco to implement the policies of Marshal Lyautey, he proved his full capability in commanding the 13th Battalion of Senegalese Tirailleurs of Ouezzane, a quality that earned him a further mention.

His command of the Kiffa Circle in Mauritania, between 1923 and 1926, left a lasting impression, as did his mission to Indochina from 1928 to 1931. As Head of Battalion in 1929, he studied at the Upper War Academy from 1933 to 1935, getting himself noticed for the depth of his cultural knowledge and his ability to understand military matters. As Lieutenant Colonel, he was posted to the Levant in January 1936 to carry out the role of Chief of Staff for the General Commander in Chief in the theatre of operations in the Middle-East. Made Colonel in March 1940, De Larminat refused to surrender his arms: whilst General Mittelhauser decided to follow the orders of the government in Bordeaux, he arranged the passage to Palestine of those troops who still wanted to carry on fighting. Arrested and imprisoned, he escaped, reaching Damascus on the 1st July and then joining the Free French (France Libre) whom he served with relentless fervour.

In Egypt, he regrouped the French contingents from Syria and then went as second in command to General Legentilhomme in Djibouti. Learning about the uprisings in Chad, Cameroon and French Equatorial Africa during a stay in London, he went to Léopoldville from where he prepared for the surrender of the garrison at Brazzaville on the 28th August, deposing the Governor General, taking command of the troops and the civilian and military command of the countries he had won over. Promoted to Brigade General, he carried out the duties of Superior Commander and Governor General and then High Commissioner until July 1941, when, appointed Division General, he returned to Syria alongside General Catroux. In December his North African adventure began. Commanding the French Forces in Libya, he took part in the Western Desert campaign, distinguishing himself at the battles of Gazalla (May 1942) and El-Alamein (October- November 1942) against Rommel.

He organised the 1st Free French Division at the head of which he brilliantly represented his homeland during the last operations of the Tunisian campaign, in May 1943 at Takrouna and Djebel Garci, thereby earning his stripes as General of the Army Corps. As Chief of Staff of the Free French Forces at the French Commission for National Liberation in June and July, in August 1943 he took command of the 2nd Army Corps, with whom he led the Italian campaign in May and June 1944 as deputy to the Commander of the French Expeditionary Corps to Italy. At its head, between the 10th June and the 4th July, he made his mark on the most glorious days of this operation between Viterbo and Sienna, in Tuscany, earning a further mention and the title of Commander of the Légion d'honneur. On the 16th August, De Larminat landed in Provence with the 2nd Army Corps, fighting through to Marseilles, liberating Toulon and opening the way for the reconquering of the country. Between October 1944 and June 1945 he led the Army Detachment of the Atlantic at the head of the Western Forces and played a decisive role in reducing the German pockets of resistance at Lorient, La Rochelle, Rochefort and la Pointe de Grave. During the winter of 1944-1945 he also carried out the task of turning the units of French Homeland Forces, which came from the resistance groups, into regular units. The army, the resistance movement and the Nation provided him with the subject matter for three books: L'Armée dans la Nation (the Army in the Nation); Bertie Albrecht, Pierre Arrighi, général Brosset, D. Corticchiato, Jean Prévost, 5 parmi d'autres (Bertie Albrecht, Pierre Arrighi, General Brosset, D. Corticchiato, Jean Prévost, to name but 5) ; Que sera la France de demain? (What will become of France tomorrow?)

As a Companion of the Liberation he carried out the role of Inspector General of the Overseas Forces between November 1945 and July 1947, was named as a titled member of the Upper War Council in 1950 and presided over the European Union Military Committee for Defence (1951-1954) - a subject that he covers in L'Armée européenne (The European Army). He was promoted to the rank of Army General in 1953, officiating as Inspector of Colonial Troops in 1955, before moving into the reserves on the 29th November 1956. Recalled in June 1962, when he had just finished Chroniques irrévérencieuses (Disrespectful Chronicles) (a book of memoirs of his early days at the end of the Second World War), De Larminat was given the presidency of the Military Court of Justice charged with instructing the trial of the instigators of the Algiers rebellion of April 1961. The trial was to open on the 2nd July against a background of the end of the war in Algeria, of a nation in tatters, contested power and virulent media campaigns. His dilemma was choosing his homeland, the army or allegiance to Gaullism, which led De Larminat to take his own life the day before the first session. On the 6th July General Dio read his funeral eulogy in the Cour des Invalides, ending his tribute as follows: "My General, may the God of the Army look after you. And may the earth in your small village in the Jura be soft. Your former comrades in arms, who are attached to you through so many memories, will piously preserve your memory " General Edgard de Larminat rests in the cemetery at Montain, in the Jura.


On the suicide of De Larminat: Historical publications, nos. 610, 615, 620, 632 Philippe Oulmont, editor. Larminat, un fidèle hors série (Larminat an out of the ordinary loyal supporter), Charles de Gaulle Foundation / LBM Publications. Distributed by Ouest France, 2008