Members of the French Resistance are photographed in the midst of battle against German troops. We see a man in makeshift army fatigues to the left and a young man on the right. Then, most strikingly, we see a woman in shorts, a patterned top, and a military hat in the center. The photograph of this young female fighter would become a symbol of women’s involvement in the Resistance.
Her name was Simone Segouin, also known by her nom de guerre Nicole Minet. When this photo was taken she was 18 years old. The girl had killed two Germans in the Paris fighting two days previously and also had assisted in capturing 25 German POWs during the fall of Chartres. She was member the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans group (French for “free shooters”), the group named themselves after the French irregular light infantry and saboteurs who fought the Germans during the Franco-Prussian War.
Simone Segouin was involved in armed actions against enemy convoys and trains, attacks against enemy detachments, acts of sabotages etc. The French newspaper Independent Eure-et-Loir on its August 26, 1944 issue described her as “one of the purest fighters of heroic French Resistance who prepared the way for the Liberation”. She was present at the fall of Chartres, on August 23, 1944, and at the Liberation of Paris. She was promoted to lieutenant, and awarded the Croix de guerre. A street in Courville-sur-Eure was named for her.
The gun she’s holding is a German MP-40. Many German weapons were captured and used by the French Resistance. The gun was effective in close quarters, due to its automatic fire and moderate stopping power against regular infantry enemies. The MP-40 was often called the “Schmeisser” by the Allies, after weapons designer Hugo Schmeisser. Schmeisser had designed the MP-18, which was the first mass-produced submachine gun, and saw extensive service at the end of the First World War. He did not, however, design the MP-40.
The French Resistance consisted of those men and women who fought against the Nazis and the Vichy French regime during World War II. They were a disparate group and came from different backgrounds and believed in divergent political ideologies. They undertook guerrilla operations, published anti-Nazi materials and sabotaged operations to try to undermine their occupiers following the 1940 German invasion of France.