Gautherin Collection

Gautherin Collection

A collection of some 60 books - mainly in French - relating to Vichy France, including publications from the inter-war years (1918-1939) and from the time of occupied France (1940-1944). There are also some later studies assessing the period. The majority of the items belonged to Alexandre-Joseph-René Gautherin (1884-1969).

René Gautherin was born in Paris on 11th March 1884. He joined the French army (the 1st Regiment of Hussars) in 1904 and was promoted to the rank of maréchal de logis in 1906. He returned to the army on 28th June 1914 and saw action almost immediately following the outbreak of war. In September 1914, he and his platoon found themselves cut off behind enemy lines, but with the help of the local population he saved his men by hiding them in a farm building. They were eventually betrayed, but Gautherin again saved his men by himself surrendering to the Germans and not revealing that his fellow hussars were still at large. Gautherin spent the rest of the war in a German prisoner of war camp, but his conduct earned him the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille Militaire.

In 1919, Gautherin served with the French delegation in Poland and helped to organise the new Polish army. He then served with distinction in the French consular service, mainly in Eastern Europe. In 1939, he and other members of the diplomatic corps were recalled to Paris following the Munich crisis. Thereafter, he served briefly as chargé d’affaires in Tirana (Albania) and had just moved to Split, when Italy invaded Yugoslavia. He was arrested by the Italians, deported to Italy and imprisoned for three months in a hotel in Abazzia with his wife and daughter, before final deportation to France. On his return, the Vichy regime retired him from the service, five years before he had reached retirement age.

Gautherin worked for the Red Cross for a few months but was soon offered a post in Vichy itself in the department responsible for prisoners of war. The employment was welcome, as the family had suffered considerable loss in an RAF raid on Château d’Alençon. There are indications that he used his position in Vichy to help opponents of the regime to leave France and that he had contacts with the Resistance. In 1943, he applied to be transferred to the Ankara embassy, then a staging post for those who sought to join General de Gaulle and the Free French forces. In December that year, his application was successful, and he was posted to Ankara, where he headed the department responsible for decoding official correspondence.

He returned to France after the war and worked in the Direction Générale des Relations Culturelles in Paris. He applied, however, for another foreign posting and was sent to Verviers in Belgium, where he served as consul until he left the service. In recognition of his services as consul, René Gautherin was awarded the Légion d’honneur and the Médaille d'honneur des affaires étrangères. In 1968, he moved to Scotland to live with his daughter, Rolande, and her husband, Daniel Gardner. He died on 18th February 1969 and is buried in Cardross cemetery, near Helensburgh.

The collection was donated to the Library in June 2003 by René Gautherin’s daughter, Mrs. Rolande Gardner (1922-2006). She acted as her father’s secretary in Vichy, and later was employed in the press office, monitoring news reports. She recalls carrying letters and parcels for her father on her bicycle and was probably unknowingly a courier for the Resistance. She later worked in the French Embassy in London. In 1961, she moved to Scotland with her second husband, Daniel Gardner. She worked tirelessly to promote closer cultural relations between Scotland and France, principally through the Franco-Scottish Society, a branch of which she founded in Ayr.

How to find material from the Gautherin collection

The biographical information given here was supplied by Dr Gordon Anderson; it is based on conversations he had with Mrs. Rolande Gardner and on information supplied by Mr. Harley Marshall. A longer version of this background note (including more information on Rolande Gardner) is printed out and shelved at the end of the Gautherin collection sequence. [Information supplied by Gordon Anderson by email, May 2007].