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In Martinique, May is the month to commemorate the great battles of history: May 1, International Workers’ Day for the Improvement of their Condition, May 8, 1945 end of the Second World War in Europe, May 22, 1848 abolition of slavery. I wanted to share a note related to one of these commemorations. Today, I share with you my discovery of Manon Tardon, a Martinican woman who distinguished herself in the Second World War. An industrial father and mayor of Le Prêcheur, a grandfather « économe » (manager) then left in the gold rush in Guyana, a brother (Raphaël) writer and poet… The Tardon family is full of atypical life courses and Manon is no exception to the rule.
Manon Tardon’s youth
From a wealthy family, Manon, daughter of Asthon Tardon and Berte Waddy, was born in Fort-de-France in 1913. Manon had a time, with her brothers and sister, a private teacher Miss Darras, she was then 12 years old. Then she was enrolled at the Pensionnat colonial (Colonial Boarding School) of Fort-de-France. Gifted for studies, she obtained her baccalaureate before her 16th birthday. In 1929, she left Martinique and moved with her mother, brothers and sisters to Paris. She studied history and geography at the Sorbonne and obtained her degree. During his studies, Manon met the Guadeloupean and lawyer Jack Sainte-Luce-Banchelin. The couple married in 1936 and had two children: a daughter who died at an early age and Pierre born in 1942.
1944, Manon Tardon and the Resistance
In 1944, Manon, 30 years old, gave to parents her young son Pierre, and, like her husband, she participates in the resistance of free France. Manon joined the AFAT (Women’s Army Auxiliary) corps. She was admitted to the rank of candidate, then second lieutenant and joined the staff of General de Lattre de Tassgny’s first army. She took part in the Alsace and Vercors campaign. On May 8, 1945, she was even in the delegation that accompanied General de Lattre during the capitulation of the Nazis as a first category staff specialist officer! She is distinguished for her commitment by the War Cross 1939-1945 with palms. Officially demobilized on June 23, 1946, Manon joined Martinique with her son, but without her husband from whom she separated, then divorced.
Manon Tardon’s return to Martinique
Back on her home island, Manon still takes the time to get her pilot’s license with the help of a friend. After several years of legal battles led by the 5 Tardon joint heirs to regain possession of the family lands, Manon settles in Prêcheur on the main family home of Anse couleuvre where essential oil and cocoa were once produced. She has been living there alone. Found unconscious at the foot of her stairs, Manon died in December 1989 in hospital.
The memory of Manon Tardon
A few press articles in 1989 and 1990 followed his death. Georges Desportes in particular retraced the main lines of his life in France-Antilles. Two years later, a street was named « Manon et Raphaël Tardon » in the Didier district of Fort-de-France. The research and the family site of France Tardon-Apprill, niece of Manon Tardon, also contribute largely to remember this amazing woman. More recently, Manon has been added to the list of famous Hommes et femmes célèbres et figures populaires de la Martinique [men and women and popular figures of Martinique] in a book and an Amarhisfa newsletter also offers a few lines on the Tardon family including Manon’s exceptional career.
And do you know women from the Caribbean who distinguished themselves in wartime?
I contacted France Tardon-Apprill (who is very active in genealogy) about this article; she kindly shared her information and corrected some elements about Manon Tardon’s life (notably the fact that Manon did not have a preceptor). Thank you very much to her.
The photo of Manon and her brothers and sisters as well as that of Manon in her military uniform come from the French site of France Tardon-Apprill You can find there other photos and documents on the family.
Manon’s photo in 1989 appears in the book Hommes et femmes célèbres et figures populaires de la Martinique published by the Bureau du Patrimoine – Conseil régional de la Martinique, n°29, June 2010, a book by which I myself discovered this woman.
The French Wikipédia page on Manon Tardon, the page dedicated to him on the France Tardon-Apprill French website and also the genealogy of he Tardon family on Geneanet.
French Amarhisfa association newsletter.
For English speakers, you can read a summary of Manon Tardon’s story Manon Tardon’s story on Resistanceheroines.
At Bibliothèque Schoelcher in Fort-de-France :
Tardon-Apprill France, Généalogie & chroniques familiales : les Tardon-Waddy : du XVIIème au XXème siècle, 1993.
Hommes et femmes célèbres et figures populaires de la Martinique, Bureau du Patrimoine – Conseil régional de la Martinique, n°29, juin 2010.