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Marguerite Garden
Honour at last for Scots woman who 'did her bit' to help French fighters flee the Nazi occupation.
Article by Maureen Cultey in the Daily Mail, Saturday June 7, 2003

Marguerite, a heroine at the age of 14TO 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.

The Lanark 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 help.’

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 Marguerite.

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 arrested.’

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.

Marguerite Garden‘I 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,’ she said. ‘But it means so much to me, I cannot say. When I think about it, I just burst into tears.’

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