Heroine of the Resistance

The bravery of an unsung French heroine of the Second World War has been publicly recognised thanks to the prize-winning research of two teenagers.

Marion Devassine and Maxence Lucas, both 15, won first prize in the National Resistance and Deportation Competition by telling the story of Marie Foubert, a young resistante who hid two British soldiers from the Gestapo.

The annual competition, an important feature of France's history and civics secondary school education, was established in 1961 following demands by Resistance members and returned deportees that future generations be taught about Nazi crimes and the sacrifices made to return to the rule of French law.

The competition has a different theme each year, and individual pupils write essays under exam conditions, or groups or whole classes submit collective entries consisting of exhibitions or films.

In 2006, more than 36,000 pupils aged 14 and over took part and the subject was Resistance in Rural France. Prizes were presented in Paris last week by education minister Gilles de Robien and army veterans' minister Hamlaoui Mekachera.

Marion and Maxence took first prize for their work on Marie Foubert (pictured, below), a young woman living in La Caudescure, a village in the Nord departement. For 18 months from November 1940, she hid two British soldiers, John Weightman and Alex Binnie, in the occupied region and helped them carry out sabotage activities. Later she concealed a Canadian agent while the Gestapo were living on her farm. Despite her bravery, Ms Foubert's patriotism was never officially acknowledged by the French government before she died in December 2005.

The two pupils, from Rene Cassin lower secondary in Loos-en-Gohelle in northern France, spent six months last year delving into Ms Foubert's story and producing a DVD for the competition. Their research included an interview with the widow of John Weightman, who returned to live in France after the war.

Following their investigations, a commemorative plaque has been mounted on Ms Foubert's house, and a street is due to be named in her honour in nearby Merville.

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