France will on Wednesday remember a boy hailed as the country’s youngest World War II hero who died when he was just six years old.
Marcel Pinte, known as “Quinquin”, carried messages under his shirt to leaders of the resistance against Nazi occupation.
His name is set to be inscribed on the war memorial in Aixe-sur-Vienne just west of Limoges in central France.
France on Wednesday observes an annual public holiday marking Armistice Day when it remembers the victims of both world wars.
A ceremony will also take place in the town to remember Pinte — seen as the country’s youngest resistance figure.
His father Eugene was himself a prominent resistance commander, known as Athos, leading a strong local movement around Limoges that had 1,200 fighters by the end of the war.
Alexandre Bremaud, 28, who is a family member of the two resistance members, has fought for recognition of Marcel’s efforts.
Eugene was able to invent false identities and even have access to official papers for his family.
He formed his first resistance unit in 1941 in the village of Gaubertie where he rented a small farm and then made formal contacts with the wider movement in France.
Eugene, along with his wife Paule and their five children, held regular secret meetings at the farm.
“It was a hidden place and very difficult to access,” said Bremaud, adding that resistance fighters the location “practical and discreet”.
‘He quickly understood how risky it all was’
Marcel was part of a household where resistance work and family life were inextricably linked — he looked on fascinated and was desperate to take part, according to Bremaud.
“At the start, he probably considered it to be a game but then he quickly understood how risky it all was,” said Marc Pinte, 68, Marcel’s nephew.
Marc said his father remembers that Marcel found it easy to get along with adults and was happy to spend time in the woods alongside the resistance fighters, getting to know their code calls.
“Everyone was surprised to see how he got involved like that,” he added.
“It was natural that the boy got involved in missions that were appropriate for his age and his abilities,” Marc said.
‘No one noticed him, no one was going to pay any attention to a boy’
Marcel surprised people with his “astonishing” memory and was entrusted with taking messages for resistance chiefs under his shirt.
“He understood everything at once. Naturally, no-one noticed him, no one was going to pay any attention to a boy,” Marc said.
A large group of resistance fighters arrived by parachute at the farm on the night of August 19, 1944, ahead of a battle that was expected around Aixe, as Allied forces began to liberate France.
The fighters were heavily armed and when a Sten sub-machine gun went off accidentally, Marcel fell to was hit by several bullets and died.
On August 21, just a few hours before Limoges was liberated, Marcel was “buried in the presence of numerous battalions. The coffin was covered with the tricolour flag,” said Marc.
While was death was an accident, Marcel Pinte is officially considered to have “died for France” as a hero.
Eugene Pinte died in 1951, aged 49 and was buried next to Marcel at the cemetery in Aixe.