Posts in Category: History

The Mounaques (dolls) of Campan

We are often asked the history behind the dolls in Campan village.  Today we stopped and had a walk round, took some pictures and picked up an information leaflet to find out more.

In years gone by, when a man of the Campan valley decided to marry under not normal circumstances, eg an old widower marrying a young girl, he was the object of very rough mockery.  The couple would be represented by coarse dolls, known as ‘les Mounaques’, this word is derived from the Occitan language ‘monaca’, meaning doll or puppet. 

The tradition now is just to decorate Campan village as a tourist attraction.

Les Mounaques of Campan, this bar we think is English owned with two police officers

Les Mounaques of Campan, this bar we think is English owned with two police officers

A couple on the balcony

A couple on the balcony

Sitting by the front door

Sitting by the front door

The wedding being held at Campan church

The wedding being held at Campan church

Sitting at the back

Sitting at the back

Janet’s father on his BSA M20

Dad on bike

Belinda was in the UK recently and met her son’s soon to be mother-in-law, Janet, who mentioned that her father rode a bike during the war and thought we might like to see this picture of him. He was in a Royal Engineers field company and he used to ride ahead on his bike to check routes were clear for his platoon(?). He landed in Normandy but several weeks after D-Day as they were mines, bombs and bridges specialists.  He then went across France, Belgium and Holland on his bike, then into Germany.

While they were training in Kent beforehand, he had a terrible collision with another motor cyclist and the handlebar went through his knee. Ironically, it was an interned German surgeon who saved his life and his leg, and fitted an artificial metal knee cap – possibly the earliest ever as it was an experiment!!

He was in hospital nearly a year at Barming Heath in Kent. Many of the engineers were on South coast both deactivating and laying but also learning to build Bailey bridges (she grew up with that name – 1950s – as it was still very recent to him). It was a real skill to get the bridges up quickly so that troops and and tanks could pursue the retreating Germans. He was at Ardennes and the dreadful Falaise pocket. Yet he was still a cheerful, kind and positive man for all that, like so many of them.

He was 94 when he died in 2011 and on the occasions he went into hospital as a white haired, wizened old man, Janet used to pin this picture up on the wall to remind the staff that he was not some anonymous old geriatric but a real person who had been young and vibrant like them once. It is one of her favourite photos of her father.

We wondered whether the wound could have been caused by a lever as they were sharp on the end and due to this problem had a ball end fitted to stop this happening.

 

Maquis de Meilhan monument

Yesterday we paid our second visit to the monument of The Maquis de Meilhan that marks a battle that took place on the night of July 6/7 in 1944, it was between a group of French Resistance fighters and German soldiers.  A group of 100 had gathered at two abandoned farms, their presence was notified to the German forces and the farm was surrounded and a fierce battle raged for more than three hours and the Maquis (a name given to French Resistance fighter of the second world war) were overwhelmed.  4 hostages were taken from nearby farms, who were not involved with the group, and executed also 3 Maquis were taken to Lannemezan and executed.  There were 76 victims in total, their ages ranged from 17 to 70.

The monument consists of two small farmhouses, a memorial tower, a cemetery and a sculpture that describes what happened at this place on that night in 1944.

If this is of interest to you please let us know and we can give you directions to the location.