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Vigerie, François-Pierre-Raoul, d'Astier de la

Date of birth:
March 7th, 1886 (Mans/Sarthe, France)
Date of death:
October 9th, 1956 (Paris, France)
Nationality:
French

Biography

François Pierre Raoul d’Astier de la Vigerie was born March 7th, 1886 at Mans (Sarthe) in France. On October 21st, 1906 he was posted to 13th Regiment Dragon Maroc in the rank of Sub-Lieutenant and was sent to the front August 2nd, 1914. Due to his interest in aviation, he was sent to French pilot training on January 1st, 1915 in the rank of Lieutenant. After training at Avord, Cazaux and Pau, he received his pilot's license on April 16th, 1916. Almost at once he was sent on operations and scored his first victory on September 15th, 1916. Eight days later, on September 23rd, François was injured in an air battle. At the end of the war he had scored numerous victories and had been injured again.
In the inter-war years, François Pierre Raoul d’Astier de la Vigerie held various posts in the French Air Force (Armée de l'Air). He was in charge of the air force's mission to Finnland, he was deputy chief of the Technical Department and he was attaché for the French Air Force in Rome. During the fighting in Morocco in 1925, he was in charge of a cavalry squadron, returning to his military roots temporarily. December 25th, 1925 he was promoted to Lieutenant-colonel. After his promotion to colonel, he was given temporary command of 3 Air Regiment of 3 Brigade. This was followed on October 25th, 1936 by his promotion to General of the Air Brigade ( Général du Brigade Aérienne) after having graduated from the Center for Strategic Artillery Training and the Center for Advanced Military Training.
On the outbreak of WW 2, his superior, General Maurice Gamelin, Commander in Chief of the French Forces, put him in charge of the Zone d'Operations Aérienne Nord, Z.O.A.N. (Air Operations in the Northern Area) in support of the British Expeditionary Force, BEF. December 20th, 1939, he arrived in the Algerian capital Algiers to negotiate the union of French troops in Europe and those in northwestern Africa.
May and June 1940, he directed the air war over France. When he realized the fighting in France was al but over, he studied the logistical possibilities to transfer France's Air Force to North-Africa. To this end, he had already met with Admiral Darlan, the local commander on June 8th. June 10th, he strongly advised General Vuillemin and Admiral Darlan to transfer the French Air Force to North-Africa. June 16th, however, he was relieved of his post and transferred to Morocco. He arrived in the Moroccan capital Rabat on June 22nd, 1940. He turned out to be far from loyal to the Vichy government. July 3rd, 1940, he refused an order to launch air attacks on British vessels in Gibraltar. November 1940, he secretly returned to France and took charge of a resistance group established by his brother Emmanuel.
May 1942, he joined the staff of General de Gaulle. After a lengthy detour, he managed to reach London on November 18th, 1942, and he received a warm welcome from De Gaulle. As early as December 1st, he became De Gaulle's assistant and deputy commander of the National Committee of the Free French (Comité Nationale des Français Libérées). In this capacity he was asked by the committee to travel to North Africa to assess the local situation. December 18th, he received his instructions. Subsequently, François de la Vigerie played an important role in the unsuccessfull attempts by General Eisenhower to mediate between General de Gaulle and Admiral Darlan. Like De Gaulle, he held on to his position that Darlan was a traitor and should be executed. December 22nd, he left Algiers. May 15th, 1943, he was named Inspector-General of the Free French Air Force (Armée de l'Air Française Libérée). May 30th, he was back in London. July 3rd, 1943, he was put in command of the Free French Forces in England and from Janaury 1944, he was advisor to General Eisenhower in the preparations for the invasion of Europe. April 1944, François de la Vigerie was stationed in Spain, later to be named commander of the French resistance organization in June 1944. However, he was called back to London to be named head of the Provisional French Government in Paris and to re-establish the French army following the liberation of France.
From November 8th to early 1946, he served as France's Ambassador to Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. January 1946, he returned to France and together with René Capitant, he established the Gaullisitic Movement (Union Gaullist)
François Pierre Raoul d’Astier de la Vigerie died October 9th, 1956, in Paris.

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Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
November 8th, 1944
l' Ordre de la Libération

Sources

  • Photo: David Lyne-Gordon
  • - 'Glittering Eagles', by David Lyne-Gordon

Photo