C’is on November 15, 1896 that Charles N’Tchoréré was born in Gabon, at the time a French colony of French Equatorial Africa (AEF). His life course will end on the field of honor on June 7, 1940 in Airaines due to an anti-military act of a soldier from Rommel’s panzer division who could not bear to see this black captain of the French army claim an officer’s salary while his company surrendered for lack of ammunition. Besides, killing Charles N’Tchoréré was not enough. A German tank will roll over him to crush him. Whatever, his honor was safe and that is the essential point. In these times of commemoration of the Normandy Landings, a prelude to decisive victories against all the barbarities, including racism currently at the heart of the news, it is appropriate to awaken the memory of a man who did his duty and wanted to defend his soldier honor to the end.
READ ALSONormandy: in the footsteps of the D-Day soldiers
N’Tchoréré is engaged since the Great War
Charles N’Tchoréré was in Cameroon when war broke out in 1914. Employed in a company run by the Germans, he returned to his country of origin, Gabon, a colony in French Equatorial Africa, to escape from ‘possible reprisals. The fighting rages on and goes on forever. France needs able-bodied arms. It therefore calls on its “natives”. With the agreement of his father, Charles enlisted in 1916. At the end of the war, he was raised to the rank of sergeant. He later decided to make a career in the French army. For his first mission, he was sent to Morocco, where a certain Abdel el-Krim and his men took up arms to demand a secessionist Republic. We are in 1919.
READ ALSO“Morts par la France”: this comic which questions the Thiaroye massacre of 1944
He goes through the School of Overseas Officers of Fréjus
Upon his return to France, Charles N’Tchoréré joined the School of Overseas Officers in Fréjus. He graduated from it major in 1922. Then he left again on a mission. Direction Syria. Charles N’Tchoréré will have no luck this time. He was seriously injured in the jaw during the fighting. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Silver Star for his exemplary courage. Recovered from his injury, he was assigned to the administration. He writes articles for The Colonial Troops Review and a report on the social promotion of indigenous non-commissioned officers. He then requested his transfer to Sudan, where he took command of the non-rank company of the 2nd Senegalese infantry regiment in Kati. At the same time, he runs a school for army wards. In 1933, Charles N’Tchoréré was appointed captain. A fine end of career in perspective awaits him in Senegal at the head of the 1st Senegalese infantry regiment.
READ ALSOMemory – Senegalese Tirailleurs: a book upsets stereotypes
The Second World War declared, he returned to France to fight
But when France and Germany go to war in September 1939, he gives up everything and flies to the aid of the metropolis. He took command of the 5th company of the 53rd Senegalese mixed colonial infantry regiment. He and his men were tasked with defending the town of Airaines, near Amiens, from the Nazi threat, which they bravely did despite the communication difficulties. Some elements of his troop, Africans, do not speak French. But Charles N’Tchoréré knows how to galvanize them. And when, on June 5, 1940, the Germans began to bombard the town, the battalion did not fold. He resists and stands up to Hitler’s army, which loses eight of its tanks. About sixty Germans are taken prisoner.
Unfortunately, the French are running out of ammunition. They therefore try to retreat to the south. To cover their escape, Charles N’Tchoréré remains in Airaines with a handful of soldiers. After seventy-two hours of fighting, the native of Libreville and fifteen of his men surrendered. The Germans are in awe. They did not expect such resistance and their surprise is great at having to deal with a captain of the colonies. But contrary to military regulations, some of them want to separate him from white officers. Charles N’Tchoréré protested and claimed, in German, his status as an officer. A soldier draws his weapon and coldly shoots it, despite the protests of the German prisoners who had just been released.
READ ALSOHistory: skirmishers, a living memory
“Our nephews will be proud to be French and will be able to lift their heads without shame”
Shortly before his death, Charles N’Tchoréré had written to his son Jean-Baptiste, who also died in combat, a few days before the defeat of the French troops and the armistice of June 1940. He said to him: “My son , I have your last letter in front of me. How proud I am to find this sentence: Whatever happens, dad, I will always be ready to defend our dear homeland, France. Thank you, my child, for expressing to me these feelings which honor me in you … Life, you see, my son, is something dear. However, serving one’s homeland, even at the risk of one’s life, must always prevail! “And to add:” I have an unshakeable faith in the destiny of our dear France. Nothing will make her succumb and, if necessary to keep her tall and proud of our lives, well, let her take them! At least, later, our young brothers and our nephews will be proud to be French and they will be able to lift their heads without shame while thinking of us. “Beyond this quote, it is indeed the history of Africa. and France, which is mingling, for honor and freedom, against barbarism and racism.