It was 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 of the Panzers division of Rommel who could not bear to see this black captain of the French army claiming officer’s treatment when his company surrendered for lack of ammunition. Besides, killing Charles N’Tchoréré was not enough. A German tank will roll on it to crush it. Whatever, his honor was safe and that is what is essential. In these times of commemoration of the Normandy Landings, a prelude to decisive victories against all barbarities including racism currently at the heart of the news, it is appropriate to awaken the memory of a man who has done his duty and wanted to defend his soldier’s honor to the end.
Read also Normandy: in the footsteps of the Landing soldiers
N’Tchoréré was engaged in the Great War
Charles N’Tchoréré was in Cameroon when war broke out in 1914. Employed in a company run by Germans, he returned to his country of origin, Gabon, a colony of French Equatorial Africa, to escape d ” possible reprisals. The fights rage and drag on. France needs valid arms. It therefore appeals to 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 then decided to pursue 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 “Dead by France”: this comic which questions the massacre of Thiaroye in 1944
It goes through the Overseas Officers’ School of Fréjus
Upon his return to France, Charles N’Tchoréré joined the School of Overseas Officers of Fréjus. He left major in 1922. Then he left again on a mission. Direction Syria. Charles N’Tchoréré will be unlucky this time. He was seriously injured in the jaw during the fighting. He is awarded the War Cross with silver star for his exemplary courage. Recovered from his injury, he was assigned to administration. He writes articles for The Review of Colonial Troops and a report on the social advancement of indigenous non-commissioned officers. He then requests his transfer to Sudan, where he takes command of the company outside the rank of the 2nd Senegalese riflemen regiment in Kati. He also runs a school for army pupils. In 1933, Charles N’Tchoréré was appointed captain. A nice end of career in prospect awaits him in Senegal at the head of the 1st regiment of Senegalese riflemen.
Read also Memory – Senegalese Tirailleurs: a book upsets the clichés
World War II declared, he returns to metropolitan France to fight
But when France and Germany went to war in September 1939, he abandoned everything and fled 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 are on a mission to defend the town of Airaines, near Amiens, from the Nazi threat, which they will do bravely despite the difficulties of communication. 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 bomb the village, the battalion did not fold. He resisted and stood up to Hitler’s army, which lost 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 stays at Airaines with a handful of soldiers. After seventy-two hours of combat, 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 to have to deal with a captain of the colonies. But contrary to military regulations, some of them want to separate him from the white officers. Charles N’Tchoréré protested and claimed, in German, his status as an officer. A soldier takes out his gun and shoots it coldly, despite protests from the newly released German prisoners.
Read also History: tirailleurs, 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 too would die in battle, a few days before the defeat of the French troops and the armistice of June 1940. He said to him: “My son , here I have your last letter in front of me. As I am proud to find this sentence: Whatever happens, Dad, I will always be ready to defend our dear homeland, France. Thank you, my child, for expressing me these feelings which honor me in you … Life, you see, my son, is something dear. However, serving your country, even at the risk of your life, must always prevail! “And to add:” I have an unshakable faith in the destiny of our dear France. Nothing will make her succumb and, if necessary so that she remains great and proud of our lives, well, let her take them! At least, later, our young brothers and 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 of France mingling, for honor and freedom, against barbarism and racism.