The Order of the Liberation is
France's second national order after the Legion of Honor,
and was instituted by General De Gaulle, Leader of the "Français
Libres" - or Free French People - with his edict
No. 7, signed in Brazzaville on November 16th, 1940. Admission
to the Order is meant to "reward individuals, military and
civil organizations for outstanding service in the effort
to procure the liberation of France and the French Empire."
The Order has only one rank. Its
members hold the title of Companions of the Liberation, and
are generally referred to as French Resistance fighters. As
the founder of the Order, General De Gaulle is the only person
entitled to hold the title of Grand Master.
The Order's insignia is the Cross of the Liberation. It consists
of a rectangular bronze shield emblazoned with a two-edged
sword and a superimposed Cross of Lorraine, and has the following
motto on the back: "PATRIAM SERVANDO VICTORIAM TULIT" ("By
serving his country, he has brought us Victory"). The decoration's
ribbon, which binds black, for mourning or sorrow, with green,
for hope, symbolizes France's situation in 1940.
- 1 059 crosses were awarded between the
day the Order was created and the suspension of awards
(January 23rd, 1946):
- 1 036 were awarded to individuals
- 18 to units of the Army, the Air Force
and the Navy
- 5 crosses were awarded to French communities:
Nantes, Grenoble, Paris, Vassieux-en-Vercors
and Ile de Sein.
65 of the 1036 members of the
Order of the Liberation were killed before May 8th, 1945,
already being Companions, and 271 received this distinction
posthumously. Only 700 of them survived the war.
On two occasions, General De Gaulle exceptionally
reactivated the Order and awarded the Cross of the Liberation
to Winston Churchill (1958) and to King George VI (1960),
which raised the final number of awardees of this high distinction
to 1 038.
Seven chancellors have presided over
the Order in the following order:
- Admiral Georges Thierry d'Argenlieu (1941-1958)
- General François Ingold (1958-1962)
- Claude Hettier de Boislambert (1962-1978)
- Army General Jean Simon (1978-2002)
- Army General Alain de Boissieu (2002-2006)
- Pierre Messmer (2006-2007)
- François Jacob (since 2007)
The Order, this "exceptional Chivalry
created at the gravest moment in the History of France, is
loyal to its own principles, shows solidarity in times of
sacrifice and battle", though once destined to become eclipsed,
will now live on forever thanks to a law entering into effect
that creates the National Council of "Companion of
the Liberation" Communities.