Obituary: Pierre Sergent

Pierre Sergent, soldier, political activist, politician, born 30 June 1926, died Paris 15 September 1992.

IT WAS OFTEN said that, when General de Gaulle returned to power in 1958, most people knew that he would bring an end to the war in Algeria and give some sort of independence to that country. But whilst this might have been recognised by those who had direct dealings with him, it was not understood by those who were actually doing the fighting. One such was Pierre Sergent, at the time a captain in the elite parachutist regiment of the Foreign Legion.

Sergent had fought in the Resistance. He had voluntarily worn the yellow star that the Jews had been forced to wear and he had narrowly escaped being killed by the Germans in Sologne. After the war he trained at St Cyr and fought in Indo-China, where he was both wounded and decorated. Intensely patriotic, he feared that another French government would betray France in Algeria as one of its predecessors had in Indo-China. Therefore, in 1960, he supported the settlers and activists who opposed de Gaulle on the barricades in Algiers, and he became heavily involved in the plotting which led to the putsch of the generals in April 1961.

He had been sent back to France, to Chartres, in the preceding December, but he feigned illness and pretended that he was reporting to the military hospital of Val-de-Grace in Paris. When the authorities looked for him there, they could not find him. Along with a handful of other officers he had organised a secret flight to Algeria and he arrived there two nights before General Challes and his associates declared their rebellion. He led the parachutists in the occupation of many buildings and in trying to establish insurgent control of Algiers.

Once this putsch had failed, it was Sergent who stayed loyal to the movement and in June 1961 he made his way back to Paris, where he became the leader of the Secret Army within France. He and his associates sought to overthrow (if only by assassination) de Gaulle and to maintain French presence in Algeria. He had a formidable task and everyone had said that he had the ability and courage to carry it out successfully. But the movement was split into too many rival sections. He was eventually forced to take refuge in Switzerland and in Belgium and he was condemned to death in his absence. In July 1968, some say as a consequence of de Gaulle's having asked the army for its support against the worker and student revolts of that year, he benefited from a general amnesty.

Sergent returned to France, where he wrote books about the army and about his own career. In 1974 he entered politics, campaigned for Giscard d'Estaing and, after flirting with other parties, he joined Le Pen's National Front (he had known Le Pen in Algeria). From 1986 to 1988 he was a National Front deputy. He remained a member of its council and in March this year he was elected as a regional councillor of Languedoc-Roussillon. But he had always been opposed to the nostalgia and sympathy for Vichy which is sometimes visible within the National Front.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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 People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence