OBITUARY:General Marcel Descour

Marcel Descour was a Resistance fighter for France during the Second World War, and went on to become a distinguished army officer, reaching the rank of General, as military commander of Lyons.

Descour, who came from a military family, was commander of an infantry unit fighting for France until 1940. He remained in the army that the government of Vichy was allowed by the Germans to maintain, but soon joined with those who wanted the army to do nothing which would assist the Germans. He also made contacts with the Resistance movements and helped to supply them arms.

In 1942 he became chief of the army's Organisation of Resistance in the Lyons area. As such he had to deal with rival military groups, their lack of unity being exacerbated by the quarrels between General Charles de Gaulle and General Henri Giraud, the latter wishing to combat the Germans within the framework of the Vichy regime, avoiding any popular uprising. Descour also took command of the main Resistance group, where there was a perpetual struggle between resources, which were sparse, and patriotic and revolutionary ambitions, which were considerable. The professional soldier was thus forced to co-operate with the guerrilla fighter.

It was these confusions which resulted in the tragedy of the Vercors, the massif of south-western France where the Resistance rose and proclaimed its independence from Germany and from Vichy in July 1944. The Germans deployed considerable forces against them and many hundreds of French were killed in the fighting and the reprisals that followed. Descour was held responsible. It was said that he had encouraged the uprising with talk of an imminent American invasion in Provence, and with promises of arms, ammunition and troops to support the establishment of a free territory. He was also criticised for having made the Vercors into a sealed redoubt, ideal for a German counter-attack.

Descour responded by blaming the intrigues which later characterised the provisional government in Algiers, with Giraud claiming authority over military operations and de Gaulle working for wider liberation forces. Doubtless this uprising had also been influenced by misunderstanding of the messages broadcast from London.

Descour became the military governor of Lyons after he had led the liberating French forces into the city in 1945 and he was promoted general in 1946. However he was involved in a mysterious series of events in May 1958. Five days after the rising in Algiers on 13 May, two parachute officers from the staff of the military commander of Algiers, General Massu, came to France and made contact with the regional commanders of the army in Toulouse and in Lyons, the latter being Descour. This was, apparently, to finalise a plan, a semi-political operation in favour of de Gaulle's return to power. It was to take the form of the occupation of Paris and if, for some reason, it did not succeed in getting de Gaulle to power then it would have had to turn into a coup d'tat.

Descour was one of those who saw "Opration Rsurrection", as it was called, as forcing the politicians to accept de Gaulle, rather than as a military conquest of power. But given the strategic importance of Lyons, his acceptance of the operation was vital. Under the Fifth Republic he was promoted to the highest rank as General and retained his command at Lyons until his retirement in 1961.

Marcel Descour (also known as Dautry and Bayard), soldier: born Paris 6 November 1899; died Paris 2 April 1995.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Chief Executive

£28, 700: Whiskey Whiskey Tango: Property Management Company is seeking a brig...

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style