The Écrivélo Files

Journeys Through War-Torn Europe by Bike.


This website deals with Chamelet during the Second World War. It follows the stories that started or finished at or near this small village on the edge of the Beaujolas Region of France and tracks thelm wherever they may lead.

The Origin Story

It was 8th May. I was waiting for the parade to begin. I was told of a Mosquito that crashed in the hills above Ternaud. Most people who live in this area know something of this story.

I, however, knew nothing. 

On 11th November that same year, I was waiting for another parade to begin; the Mosquito again cropped up in conversation. It had been six months, and I now knew a little of the story. This time the discussion included an added detail. Three crew members were killed. I did know that the De Haviland Mosquito was designed for two crew, a pilot and a navigator. Therefore, there was a high probability that the body count of three hypotheses was inaccurate. 

So what started as a quick stab at clarification quickly became a full-blown tumble into history nerddom, plunging down historical rabbit holes and all the while becoming more and more obsessive about ensuring that the stories of people, places and incidents were accurate.

You may not have heard of or recognise Monsieur Jean-Marie Sonnery, Flying Officer John Christie, or Flying Officer George Powell; these are just a few of the names mentioned on this site. Each name refers to a person, a human being, who made enormous sacrifices, endured fear beyond imagination and displayed a courage that we mere mortals don’t even possess the vocabulary to describe adequately.

“Repeated lies become history, but they don’t necessarily become the truth.”

Irish writer, Colum McCann

I’ve heard some people attribute these historical inaccuracies to lies. Intentionally false statements? I don’t see it this way. Without a doubt, there are aspects of history that, when viewed through today’s lens, could be described as shameful and, therefore, subject to a bit of burnishing to make them more palatable. However, I believe that the case of anomalies in the Mosquito story is more a case of Chinese Whispers (I hope that is not a politically incorrect thing to say these days) or, as the French call it, téléphone arabe. (That almost certainly is). In other words, minor inaccuracies that have become magnified over the years.

Napoleon also ventured into this truth/lie dichotomy.

“L’histoire est une suite de mensonges sur lesquels on est d’accord”

“History is a series of lies we agree on.”  

Napoléon Bonaparte / Chef militaire, empereur, 1769 – 1815

However, if generations to come are to learn of their role in protecting the freedom we enjoy today, then this is not good enough. Just because we seek the truth doesn’t mean that what isn’t the truth is a lie. In my humble opinion, it is paramount that the contribution and sacrifice that each of these persons, Monsieur Sonnery, FO Christie, or FO Powell and many, many others like them made, must be recorded accurately, honestly and unbiasedly. 

If humanity is to ensure such dark days are not repeated, then future generations need to know and learn from what happened and why. Playing fast and loose with the facts is a disservice to their memories. 

I am trying to present a series of corroborated facts. Where the goodness or badness of the evidence discerns its weight, so on this site, you will find the evidence along with the source, thus helping us to determine the weight.

Air Safety Network  – Mosquito DZ636/N: Took off at 23:12 hrs for a mission to mark the marshalling yards and rail junctions at Givors, Rhône. 26/07/1944

Histoire vécue des maquis de l’Azergues. –  CHAVANET, Roger/GUERIN  Lyon: Imprimerie Vaudrey, 1982.- 236 p. POLITIQUE, SECONDE GUERRE MONDIALE

Ce que j’ai connu de la résistance – Marcel Chadebech ex-commandant Carron des maquis de l’Azergues.  CHADEBECH Marcel – Vénissieux: Public Imprim, 1998.- 256  POLITIQUE, SECONDE GUERRE MONDIALE : RESISTANCE

Quotes used in this page

“The repeated lies become history, but they don’t necessarily become the truth.” – Colum McCann (2009). “Let The Great World Spin”, p.114, Bloomsbury Publishing –  Colum McCann is an Irish writer of literary fiction. He was born in Dublin, Ireland. February 28, 1965 .  He  lives in New York.

“History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon” – A direct translation of “L’histoire est une suite de mensonges sur lesquels on est d’accord.” which was allegedly said after the Battle of Waterloo on 18th June 1815 by Napoléon Bonaparte, born on  15th August 1769 at Ajaccio, Corsica and died 5th May 1821 on the island of Sainte-Hélène.

Last and by no means least, I shall endeavour not to suck.” – Livius

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