In honor of Bastille Day earlier this week, we present a French “moustache.”
This moustache decorates the face of General Giraud, here seen out walking in the gardens of the cliffside fortress Konigstein, where he was held as a POW by the Germans. He was captured in May of 1940 and escaped two years later. According to a 1949 Life magazine article, about 100 French generals were held prisoner. Giraud was the only one who escaped.
It wasn’t the first time Giraud had escaped imprisonment. He had served in WWI and broken free from an enemy prison then as well.
This time, he escaped a heavily guarded fortress. Because it was patrolled at night, he escaped during the day “by climbing down a blind angle of the 150-foot wall, outside the range of vision of the permanent watchtower secretary and between the regular rounds made by other guards” (Life, 1949).
And where did he get the rope to rappel down a fortress wall?
It was made from “raw material . . . accumulated painstakingly from short pieces of twine used for tying prisoners’ parcels from France” stolen from the prison post office by “a courageous young French corporal” (Life, 1949). The bits of twine were then woven into a rope, 150 feet long and 22 inches think, with a piece of wood at the end to serve as a seat. It took a year to complete the rope.
After he descended, the wall, he was met by a man who supplied him with false identification papers. As part of his disguise, Giraud put on glasses and sacrificed his distinctive moustache, shaving it off.
But not to worry. Giraud made his escape to Switzerland (you can read his account) and eventually grew his moustache back.