Obituary: General Jean Crepin

On the morning of 24 August 1944 a reconnaissance plane flew over the Ile de la Cite in Paris and dropped a message. It was signed by Colonel Crepin and it stated "Hold on: we are coming." This meant that General Leclerc was on his way and was going to relieve the French capital where insurgent forces were still fighting against the German army. That evening, at about 10.30, the first units of Leclerc's army arrived and the bells of Paris rang out in celebration.

This was the most dramatic moment in the distinguished career of General Crepin and, unfairly perhaps, it is the best remembered.

He was already a distinguished officer, a specialist in artillery, when he joined Free France in the summer of 1940. He was attached to Leclerc and his army in West Africa, and he fought with them in their epic expedition to Tripolitania. From there he transferred to Britain, to prepare the Second Armoured Division for the invasion of France. He was beside Leclerc from the moment the division landed in Normandy, but in spite of his loyalty to him, it was typical that he should afterwards have been critical of his tactics, particularly claiming that Leclerc's deployment of troops hindered the movement of the American army under General Gerow.

In 1945 Crepin was sent to Indo-China with General Leclerc. They had the task of negotiating for the future French re-occupation of Indo-China. For a time Crepin was in Chung King and negotiated directly with Ho Chi Minh. He was later the chief French representative in Hanoi. When Leclerc returned to France in January 1947, the question arose as to whether he should return to Indo-China as French High Commissioner and carry out his policy of giving the French colonies some degree of independence. Crepin assisted Leclerc in this period of negotiation and indecision, and is one of the few sources of information about the stormy interview between de Gaulle and Leclerc, which turned out to be their last meeting. Leclerc refused Indo-China and was killed in an air accident shortly afterwards.

But Crepin had other preoccupations. In 1945 de Gaulle had erected a Commissariat for Atomic Energy, and after his retirement it continued to function and it was always helped by Gaullists in various positions. Crepin, who had been made brigade-general, played a most important role. He was in charge of the committee for nuclear explosions, a committee that was so secret that few government ministers knew anything about it. He can therefore be considered one of the creators of the French bomb, although when it was exploded and an excited de Gaulle cried "Hurrah for France", the more realistic Crepin said that it was "only an experimental device".

But before this event (13 February 1960) Crepin had, like many army officers, to go through the experience of Algeria. In 1959, as a full general, he was serving at Ain Arnat, south of Oran, when de Gaulle gave his first intimations that his policy in Algeria was one of "autodetermination". This was not supported by General Massu, the commander of the Army Corps of Algiers. He was removed from his post and a wave of protests swept through Algiers. On 24 January 1960, fighting broke out in the capital, some 24 people were killed and barricades were put up. Crepin was ordered to succeed Massu (with whom he had fought in Leclerc's army). The danger was that the army would fire on the rebels, and this would lead to a widespread revolt against de Gaulle, which would be joined by many sections of the army. Crepin convinced de Gaulle that such bloodshed would be fatal, and it was his policy which succeeded, the insurrection simply petering out.

For this Crepin was promoted to be Commander-in-Chief in Algeria, but here he was less successful. He was nicknamed "Cassenoisette" because of his prominent jaw, and he was distrusted as being too close to de Gaulle. At the same time he was influenced by the atmosphere and uttered several "Algerie francaise" remarks. He was therefore removed to take command in Germany and also to command the Central Europe section of Nato. He was the youngest five-star general in the French Army when he retired in 1967.

He then began a career as an industrialist. His experience as a military engineer made him an ideal president of the North Aviation Company, and eventually in 1970 the National Society of Aerospatial Industry, and the French-German Euromissile Company. In this capacity, the man who was one of the creators of the French atomic bomb became one of the creators of the Exocet and other missiles.

General Crepin had many decorations, including the Distinguished Service Order.

Jean-Albert-Emile Crepin, soldier and industrialist: born Bernaville, Somme 1 September 1908; married 1948 Simone Granday (deceased, two daughters); died Acheres-la-Foret, Seine et Marne 4 May 1996.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Sport
footballLive: All the latest from today's Premier League matches
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee