België / Plaats van belang

Mons Grand Place




During the Occupation, the OMBR (Organisation Militaire Belge de la Résistance), was an organisation that grew out of the Front de la Résistance de Mons et sa Région, founded by Jean Bodaert from Mons, who was himself a member of the Front de la Résistance Belge.

Jean Bodaert headed a small staff, consisting of: Edouard Melart (Chief of Staff), Raymond Duplouys (Deputy and Head of Administration), Odon Dubois (Intelligence) and Henri Pottiez (First Shock and Action Group). The OMBR received its orders from London.

The organisation's mission was to protect bridges and public buildings in the region (by surveying maps, in particular of German telephone networks, and road and river traffic). However, it also helped people who refused to take part in compulsory labour, Jewish people, and airmen.

It was part of the network linking the Resistance movements in the region (Armée Secrète (Secret Army), Service de Renseignement et d’Action (Intelligence and Action Service), Front de l’Indépendance (Independence Front) and Mouvement National Belge (Belgian National Movement). It also contributed to "Coup de Queue", a local underground newspaper. On 10 February 1944, the local section of the OMBR was decapitated by a raid by the German authorities during a meeting at the Novada café.

From 3 September 1944, the Comité de Libération (Liberation Committee) was based at the town hall. It was an offshoot of the political parties and Resistance movements, set up to fill the power vacuum between the departure of the German authorities and the return of the legal authorities. The committee's main tasks were to maintain order, ensure supplies for the population and carry out purge operations.

Its members were: Edmond Bovyn, Albert Bekaile and Edgard Platteau for the Front de l'Indépendance; Marthe Thiry, Hélène Huppez and Pierre Ruelle for Solidarité du Front de l'Indépendance; Léopold Prince for the Partisans Armés; Commissioner Mr. Hottiaux for the Mouvement National Belge; Mr. Vienne for the Cheminots Résistants; Abbé De Vogel for the Catholique Party; Emile Houssiaux for the Christian-Democrat party; Léon Leborgne for the Liberal Party; Adrien Lux for the Socialist Party and Mr. Hennequin for the Communist Party.

When liberation came, the committee officially welcomed the American liberators to the town hall. The following signed the visitors' book: Major Dugan (Intelligence and Public Relations Officer of the 3rd AD), George Hicks (American war correspondent), and Lieutenant Tresca (French liaison officer).

By the end of that afternoon, the Grand Place was full of dressed-up Montois enjoying the fine weather and the new-found freedom. The arrested collaborators were taken to the town hall before the Liberation Committee and then assembled at the Casteau Camp. According to eyewitness Léonce Descamps: "The liberation was scandalous in Mons. When I arrived at the Place de Mons, I could have wept. The women's clothes had been untied, they had shaved their hair and marked swastikas on their heads. They had to release to most of them.''

Grand-Place, 7000 Mons