The Shooting at Chartres, 1935
On 21 June 2013, I spoke at the Maison Francaise d’Oxford during a conference organised by Alison Carrol (Brunel) and Ludivine Broch (Birkbeck/EUI), titled ‘A Century Later: New Approaches to French History, 1914-1945′.
My paper concerned an incident of political violence at Chartres in January 1935. On 20 January, the Jeunesses Patriotes (JP), an extreme right-wing paramilitary group, held a meeting in the town of Chartres, 60 miles south west of Paris. The announcement of the meeting in Chartres, and the fact that JP leader Pierre Taittinger himself was scheduled to speak, caused a stir among local left wingers. A counter-demonstration was quickly organised. Several hundred local JPs attended the meeting, reinforced by four coachloads of activists from Paris. Meanwhile, over 1000 counter-demonstrators attended their own meeting before making for the square in front of the meeting venue. The JP meeting passed off without incident. But violence flared as the leaguers returned to their coaches and took the road back to Paris. JP activists, believing themselves to be under attack from communists on the roadside, opened fire from the coaches, and a passer-by was shot in the foot. The communists responded with a hail of bricks, stones and bottles. On the road back to Paris police stopped and searched the vehicles. They found a large number of rubber and wooden truncheons, clubs, knuckledusters, and rubber helmets – but no revolvers. Following conflicting witness statements from both sides, police were unable to identify the aggressor and the case was ultimately dismissed.
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