Simone Segouin was a French teenager who bravely fought on the front lines against the German occupiers, and helped liberate the historic city of Chartres.
Born in 1925 in Thivars, 55 miles from Paris, Simone was a tomboy with three brothers who taught her how to fight. She was especially close with her father, a patriotic farmer who served his country with distinction in the Great War (WWI.)
In 1940 the Germans marched into France and began a brutal occupation that would last four long years. Filled with love of her country and admiration for her veteran father, Simone was determined to find a way she could help, even as a teenage girl. She joined the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans – a resistance group – and took the nom de guerre Nicole Minet. Simone was provided with false identity papers showing “Nicole Minet” to be from the Channel port of Dunkirk. This was a wise move because the port was bombed at the beginning of the war so it was impossible for them to verify her papers.
Simone stole a bike from German soldiers and painted it to avoid detection. It became her “reconnaissance vehicle” and she used it to move around without attracting notice so she could deliver messages and snoop around. Simone/Nicole underwent intensive military training to be a combat soldier. She carried out multiple acts of sabotage against German targets, helping to blow up bridges and supply lines.
While helping capture German troops in Thivars, she fell in love with Roland Boursier, commander of the resistance operation in her hometown. He was in hiding after killing a group of German soldiers. Since he couldn’t leave his hiding place in the countryside, Simone became his courier, taking messages to the main Resistance group.
Simone helped liberate the historic city of Chartres, home of the famed cathedral, in August 1944. Afterwards, General Charles de Gaulle, the Free French leader and future president, visited the city and gave a speech at the city square. Journalists covering the event were fascinated by the sweet-looking girl eating a baguette with jam – and carrying a machine gun. She proudly told the reporters that she was part of General de Gaulle’s security detail. Simone was interviewed by an American reporter for Life magazine, and photographed by famed war photographer Robert Capa.
After Chartres was liberated, Simone joined France’s 2nd Armored Division heading to Paris, where a brutal battle was taking place. The 2nd Armored Division helped defeat the Germans and bring freedom to the City of Light.
Simone was asked if she’d ever killed anyone. She answered, “On July 14, 1944, I took part in an ambush with two comrades. Two German soldiers went by on a bike, and the three of us fired at the same time, so I don’t know who exactly killed him. You shouldn’t have to kill someone like that. It’s true, the Germans were our enemies, it was the war, but I don’t draw any pride from it.”
After the war ended, Simone was promoted to lieutenant and awarded the prestigious Croix de Guerre.
She became a pediatric nurse in Chartres and raised six children. Now 94, she lives in Courville-sur-Eure, where a street was recently named after her. Mayor Frederic Hallouin described Simone as “A rebellious spirit, a strong character certainly, who took her father’s example and rejected the enemy occupying our country.” Simone said, “I’m very glad to know that people are not indifferent to this period of my life.”
For fighting Nazis and helping to liberate France, we honor Simone Segouin as this week’s Thursday Hero.
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