Marguerite Garden’s neighbours and many friends in the town where she has
lived most of her life, she seems a typical grandmother. But the petite,
grey-haired lady dressed In a
cardigan and slippers has a
secret past as a heroine of the French Resistance.
pensioner rarely talks about her remarkable
role in the war which she modestly dismisses as no more than ‘doing her
bit’. But yesterday on the
anniversary of the D-Day landings, fame finally caught up with Marguerite.
It was revealed that she is to be decorated with the Legion D’Honneur
France’s highest honour, for her exploits during world War II.
Preparations are being made for her
to receive the award at a ceremony in Edinburgh later this year.
French-born Marguerite, 77, has lived a daring life that mirrors that of
Charlotte Gray, the fictional character brought to life on the screen by
actress Cate Blanchett.
At the age of 14, Marguerite risked
her life to work with the French Resistance in her picturesque home
village of Plomodiern in Brittany. She and her father, who was also
awarded the Legion D’Honneur,
arranged escape routes out of France for hundreds of local men, including
Marguerite’s brothers, to allow them to continue fighting from England.
She said: ‘I think my Involvement
began when my father took me with him when a lobster boat was going away
so I got to know the people who were preparing It. Later on, when my
father wasn’t around, they trusted me enough to come to me and ask me to
At one nerve-racking point, while
harbouring airmen waiting to leave France, she helped conceal them
upstairs in the family home while a German slept in one of the bedrooms,
unaware. ‘What better cover than to have the Wehrmacht In the house,’ said
It was also
at her family home that the head of MI6 — the
intelligence-gathering network for which she worked - began making radio
transmissions that were picked up at Bletchley Park, the Enigma
code-breaking station in England.
Her work did not stop
there. Marguerite carried out many dangerous missions. She scoured the
Brittany coastline, searching for mines, to ensure British maps were
accurate. She also
carried messages and parcels between her
network and another in Paris.
‘There was no reason to suspect me,’
she said. ‘I was a young girl, travelling to my school. I was never
Eventually, her father’s role in the
Resistance was found out and he fled as the Gestapo came knocking. ‘I
opened the door to them,’ said Marguerite. ‘They smelled of the Gestapo,
of Turkish cigarettes. My father had learned what was happening and didn’t
come home, so my mother told them that he had left us and they accepted
that. If it hadn’t been for that
story, they would have taken us away.
was aware of risking everything but tried not to think about it. I wasn’t
scared even though one of my brothers was shot by the Germans in Paris.
She added: ‘We wanted to be of use to Britain. That was our aim, to help
win the war. I would do it all again if I had to.’
After the war she began an
architecture course at college In Paris. At the age of 20 she met Scots
holidaymaker James Garden and it was love at first sight. Within a year
they were married in Kilmun, Argyll. She and her husband, who became a
prominent surgeon, had seven children. He died in 1992.
News of the Legion D’Honneur, which
the French foreign minister recommended she receive, brought a surge of
emotions for Marguerite. ‘I don’t know why it has taken so long to come,’
‘But it means so much to me, I cannot say. When I think about it, I just
burst into tears.’