Second Lieutenant Robert Thollon in
front of a Dewoitine 510 of GC I/8 in Hyères, in February 1939.
Born in Marseille on May 14th 1914, Robert Thollon entered the
French Air Force Academy in October of 1936. After successfully
obtaining his pilot license as well as his aerial observer
license, he graduated from the fighter pilot school in Romilly
first in his class with the rank of Second Lieutenant.
In March 1939, he was assigned to fighter group GC (groupe de
chasse) I/8 in Marseille-Marignane, a unit under the command of
Major Colin. It was with this group that he distinguished himself
in May and June of 1940, achieving 8 confirmed victories
(including 4 on an individual basis) becoming the top scoring
Bloch 152 pilot.
On the 5th of August
1940, Major Colin wrote in his campaign report the following
appreciation about Robert Thollon: "Young and brilliant
Officer, first in his graduating class, has shown since the first
aerial engagements that he possesses the qualities of a first
class fighter pilot. Conservatively daring, he has been a great
help and a role model for his fellow pilots in his unit by giving
them judicious advice. He constantly demonstrates determination,
and a magnificent spirit of sacrifice. In six weeks, he has been
credited with 8 victories which deserved him 5 citations in the
order of the French Air Force. Additionally, on May 17th,
he brought back a repaired airplane from an abandoned airfield
under enemy machine gun fire ".
The Trident: The emblem of the 1st
Escadrille of " Groupe de chasse "
Disheartened and refusing to accept the defeat, Robert Thollon
asked to be put on leave under the stipulation of the armistice so
that he could continue " his " own fight. On October 1st
1940, he joined an organization created by the Vichy Government
called "Jeunesse et Montagne" (Youth and Mountain) under the
direction of general d'Harcourt the former inspector general of
the fighter arm. This organization had for purpose the regrouping
of French Air Force cadres without assignments. Based on the
German youth organization concept, it progressively became a
centre with other purposes.
The contacts with the resistance networks were beginning to become
organized, mainly under General Carayon the secretary of Air
defence. But in Vichy, surveillance was re-enforced and 138 French
Air Force officers were arrested between 1943 and 1944. Some of
them were deported, and Major Colin was shot by the Gestapo firing
squad in February 1944. It was without any doubt the event that
strengthened Robert Thollon's determination to resist the
As the "Jeunesse et Montagne" centre was moved to Murols in the
heart of the Auvergne region in April 1943, Thollon now promoted
to Captain in September took charge of the resistance organization
for this region in May 1944. It was around this period that he was
promoted to Major.
The school under the direction
of Thollon joined the "maquis" (the underground) on June 3rd,
three days before the D-Day invasion. Its 160 men came to enlarge
the ranks of the Renaud group. But, they only had at their
disposition a total of 19 sub-machine guns, and a few hundred
ammo. On July 6th, thanks to two airdrops, the group's
force now up to 4 companies and 350 men was finally ready for
It was Robert Thollon who led his men in combat on August 7th
along National Highway 122 between Aurillac and Murat, not far
from Vic-sur-Cère. There, he set up an ambush for the German
garrison from Aurillac that was moving towards the Northeast. The
combat would last for five hours with the Germans receiving
artillery and heavy machine guns re-enforcement. The group
retreated after killing about thirty German soldiers, but losing
three of its men in the process.
The German garrison having resumed its evacuation towards the East
was again harried between the 11th and the 13th
of August at the foot of the Lioran mountain pass, about 10
kilometres from Murat. The German column was finally disengaged
from battle with the intervention of the Luftwaffe (probably by
the group "Bongart" flying Reggiane Re.2002s). There was ten dead
on the French side, but it was estimated that the German lost were
four to five times greater, and most importantly, the column had
been brought to a halt for more than 72 hours, permitting other
resistance elements located further East to get ready to "greet"
Then, the group Renaud participated to the operations that ended
with the surrender of the German garrison from Rueyre on August 19th.
This success incited the military command of the Cantal region to
surround Saint Flour, despite a garrison of 500 men well equipped
with heavy material. But, the Germans having at their disposal
lories equipped with machine guns caused this daring attempt to
Renamed "colonne rapide" (fast moving column) number 6 of the
Auvergne region's underground, the group Renaud was integrated with the
Lyon assault section on September 11th. Thollon and three
officers of his command would be the first to enter the Lyon courthouse on
the 3rd of September.
Thollon would again participate in the difficult battles of Decize,
and would also take an important part in the surrender of 18,000 Germans
to the Americans in the evening of September 11th.
In November, Robert Thollon left the underground and rejoined the
French Air Force family. On November 22nd 1944, he
arrived in Toulouse to take command of GC II/18 Saintonge, derived
directly from the underground fighter group FFI Doret. There, he
would participate in several offence missions over the Pointe de
Grave and the Atlantic pockets.
On January 9th 1946, while still leading GC II/18, he
was summoned by the personnel service, informing him that he was
now assigned to the department of "sports aériens" (sport flying)!
Infuriated, Thollon intervened directly to general Bouscat and was
transferred as second in command of the 6th Wing. In
May 1946, he arrived to the 3rd Wing based in Germany
as the second in command, and then he was promoted to Wing leader
in December 1946.
Unfortunately, on February 24th 1948, Robert Thollon
fell while vacationing in the mountains and was killed instantly.
Pilot Officer / Second Lieutnant
10.05.40 (2) He 111 Château-Salins 
10.05.40 (4) He 111 Trondes [B]
15.05.40 (1) Do 215 Dinant [B]
03.06.40 (1) Bf 109 Roye 
03.06.40 (2) Ju 88 Cocherel 
06.06.40 (1) Do 17 Amiens 
06.06.40 (3) Do 17 Chaulnes 
15.06.40 (1) Ju 88 Jargeau