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Thread: Croix de Guerre ? Something Else ?

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    Default Croix de Guerre ? Something Else ?

    This is related to my query respecting No.50 Squadron and C.M. Brown, but it requires the expertise of our French friends. I was asked how this man earned a Croix de Guerre, and my research indicated that if he did receive a Croix de Guerre it was for pre-RCAF services as an Ambulance Driver in France, 1939-1940. His service documents do not specifiically mention a Croix de Guerre, but hint very strongly at one:

    In the run-up to his joining the RCAF, Brown related a rremarkable history. From January to September 1936 he had worked for Carl Flohr A.G. in Berlin, a company making lifts (elevator) and cranes. He wanted to get foundry experience as practical work required by the Berlin Polytechnical Institute - a requisite for a Diploma. For the same reason he worked for Hartug A.G. Foundry, Berlin, September and October 1936. Of this period he wrote, "Got on very well with labourers. Enjoyed practical experience."

    He was on vacation in southern France when the war broke our. "Having lived from 1933 to 1939 in Germany and knowing Nazism from the inside, I tried to join an active force in France in September 1939, was only accepted as Ambulance Driver in French Unit. Saw the defeat, took part in retreat (from Metz" and hoped to joined the dissident French forces after the Armistice. This turned out to be impractical, so I returned to U.S.A. for express purpose of joining either RAF or RCAF or Tank Corps'"

    Describing his experiences as an Ambulance Driver (1939-1940) he wrote, "Trucking with French Red Cross necessitated driving (and keeping in condition while en route 5 days out of 7) ten 5-ton trucks in convoy all through winter, at times in very deep snow and for 12 to 16 hours per day. Also helped with loading and unloading as well as refuelling from 100-lb drums. Very strenuous work as all other drivers were girls and women and most of the heavy work and all of the mechanical work devolved on me."

    And now come the real kicker - a document signed by W/C V.H. Patriarche at No.6 SFTS, Dunnville, Ontario, dated 5 June 1942 (when Brown was taking advanced pilot training there - VERIFICATION OF MEDALS, DECORATIONS AND BADGES - OFFICERS - and relating to LAC Carlos Manuel Brown. Attached to this is a "Certified True Copy" of an "Extrait" (Extract) from "ORDRE No.193C" which in turn is dated 2 September 1940 and signed by "Weygand" (General Maxime Weygand, Commander-in-Chief, French Army). It reads as follows:

    Le Général Commandant en Chef, Ministre, Secrétaire d’Etat á la Défense Nationale, cit:
    à l’ORDRE DU REGIMENT

    BROWN, Charles, conducteur volontaire de voiture sanataire à l’ambulance Chirugicale auxiliaire No.283

    Conducteur volontaire animé des plus nobles sentiments et doué d’un magnifique courage. S’est depensé sans compter pour assurer les évacuations des blessés dans les circonstances les plus critiques notamment les 14, 15, 16 mai et 14 juin 1940, ou il a assuré son service sous un violent bombadrement aérien.

    The file does not indicate how Brown got from France back to the U.S.A., but as an American volunteer (and likely a civilian) he probably would have had no trouble leaving either occupied France or Vichy-controlled France - the "when" is what is unknown. Nevertheless, he must have stayed long enought to have received the above notice from "Ordre No.193C" - unless we are to believe that Vichy obligingly supplied it to the RCAF in 1942 !

    There remains the question as to whether this "Extrait" constituted award of a Croix de Guerre or something lesser (like a French equivalent of a Mention in Despatches or a Commendation). Still, the circumstances suggest that Brown, while still an aircrew trainee, was wearing a medal, and justification for it had to be found.

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    Hugh,

    I am far to be a French awards expert, but I think that your guy might have received a "citation à l'ordre du régiment", which could similar more or less to "MiD". I remember that existed (and still today?) various levels of "citation", the highest being "citation à l'ordre de l'armée". I am not sure that any medal was associated to a "citation" but was written in his personal military file.


    Phil

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    Hugh,

    While his service documents may not mention a Croix de Guerre his entry on the CWGC site certainly does.

    http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=1530567

    Best,

    Dave

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    Default Mention in AIR 2 for another Croix de Guerre

    hello,

    I found at least one mention with citation for French Croix de Guerre to a R.A.F. airman, Flight Lieutenant J.F. OVERTON, No. 613 Squadron, in the AIR 2 series in Kew. He was awarded the D.F.C. for bringing back his damaged Mosquito back to base on 20th february 1944. Only other "contact" with France is that his observer during that mission was a Free French ("Murray"). I don't have the full reference here at the office, but I'll have a look tonight in my files. I remember there were others Croix de Guerre in the same file. Will get back to you later. But the document was from 1945 so not sure to find the one you're looking for.

    Joss

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    Default Air 2/9141

    hello,

    Back home, the reference is AIR 2/9141. I pictured only 4 pages from this huge file, but one page is a list of 34 Croix de Guerre proposals, "by whom offered and when" and "present position". Mostly 1944-1945, but one earlier one (for I.R. GLEED proposed in July 1943).

    Sorry BROWN is not in this list, but he may be somewhere else in this big file.

    Joss

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    Default Croix de Guerre ?

    I think we can definitely say that Brown's award (whether a Croix de Guerre or a commendation) had nothing to do with his RCAF career but was related to his activities as an ambulance driver in 1940.

    Although the Commonwealth War Graves site states he had a Croix de Guerre, the document from which I quoted in my first post is vague as to the exact honour. Since composing my original query and in addition to Phil's observations, I have had three quasi-expert opinions given respecting whether Brown had been awarded a Croix de Guerre or a Commendation. Two opinions are to the effect that it was a Commendation only, one is that it was a Croix de Guerre with Bronze Star. Further to these, I have consulted a referennce book on French awards. It metions "des citations sans Croix de guerre" (citations with no medal) issued under the authority of the Army, Army Corps. divisions, brigades, regiments and supporting units" for persons "ont accomplit un acte de courage ou de dévouwment particulierement méritoire." However, the orders quoted about such "citations sans croix de guerre" are dated 20 February 1967. To what degree they followed 1940 procedures I do not know.

    I believe the issue of whether he had been awarded a Croix de Guerre or merely thought he had been awarded one remains unresolved. The best way to settle this would be for an expert to consult the original "ORDRE No.193C" in its entirity, and to interpret it in the context of French regulations of that period.

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    Default Croix de Guerre to C.M. Brown

    Having followed this a bit more closely (and receiving a short education on the nature of the Croix de Guerre) I am now satisfied that Brown did indeed receive the award. When photographed for ID purposes upon enlistment in the RCAF he wore no ribbons, but immediately after receiving his wings he was again photographed, this time wearing the ribbon of the Croix de Guerre. It appears that his entitlement to wear such a ribbon was the subject of inquiry whilst he attended No.6 SFTS. Moreover, the inventory of his effects, taken after his death, included reference to medal ribbon.

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    So was Brown a civilian when he received his award? If so I find it most strange that an award earned as a civilian was allowed to be worn on a uniform. Are you aware of any other circumstances when civilian awards are authorized for wear on military uniforms?

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    Default Croix de Guerre

    hello,

    I'm no expert in this French decoration (I know much more on the British ones actually), but the Croix de Guerre was not only awarded to people. For example, my own village was awarded the Croix de Guerre, because it was totally destroyed during the first world war. We have many villages and towns so decorated here in northern France. A full list was published in our newspaper a year ago, and there were a couple who received the award for WW2 events. Also, but I would need to be "backed up" by my fellowmen, units were also decorated (as may have been a few warships). So the Croix de Guerre may have some regulations of its own, and obviously different of british ones.

    As for BROWN, being an ambulance driver made him no longer an "ordinary civilian".

    There were a few R.A.F. airmen in WW2 who had received civilian awards between the two wars. I presume they could carry them on their uniform. For example Sir Arnold Talbot WILSON, 75684, K.C.I.E., C.S.I., C.M.G., D.S.O., KIA 31 May/1st June 1940 and buried in Eringhem (south of Dunkirk). But I don't if there's a portrait to confirm this.

    Joss

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    As a serving member of HMF, I can state that uniformed personnel are allowed to wear certain awards earned whilst as a civilian. Although my experience is with British awards, the case mentioned would have no doubt caused some debate at unit level (as it has here) and would have been refered to higher authority. In essence, and nothing has actually changed, the sovereign would have give the permission to wear a foreign award (usually gazetted in the LG).

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