Roger Degueldre was born on May 19, 1925, at Louvroil, in the North department of France, to a humble family. His father was a railway worker.
In 1940, when the Germans invaded the country, the family fled to the South of France and took refuge in the free area. In 1942, under German occupation, young Roger Degueldre stealthily entered the occupied zone, and joined the maquis, under Roger Pannequin, “le Commandant Marc”.
Upon Liberation, he joined the 10th motorized infantry division which, in January 1945, participated in the reduction of the Colmar pocket. Later on, he joined the French Foreign Legion, and left for Indochina, within the 1st foreign cavalry regiment, where he exhibited his warfare skills and courage that subsequently earned him promotion to a non-commissioned officer.
“The day the ‘fells’ shall enter Algiers, I hope to find three buddies to guard the sides of the monument for the dead and to fall while firing the last salvo of the submachine gun” Roger Degueldre, 1962 (See Roger Degueldre’s original saying in French)
After the fall of Dien Bien Phu, Roger Degueldre was transferred to Algeria and assigned to the 1st foreign parachute regiment where he served under Colonel Brothier and later on under Colonel Jeanpierre. He also served at Suez in November 1956 and fought in the Battle of Algiers in 1957. In January 1958, he was appointed second lieutenant at the Guelma front and participated in the border battle in East Constantine. In January 1960, during the “Barricades Week”, he was in Algiers with his unit. Suspected of plotting to assassinate General de Gaulle, Lieutenant Degueldre was transferred to the 4th Foreign Infantry Regiment.
He deserted and started operating underground in December 1960, and, in 1961, he created Commandos Delta de l'OAS (a secret armed organization). On March 15, 1962, a commando Delta force entered the El-Biar educational social centre, along the heights of Algiers, the base of the unofficial government police which in those days used to be called "barbouzes" (secret agents), and shot six leaders of the social centres aligned along a wall in the yard.
“Say I died for France!”
Roger Degueldre was caught on April 7, 1962 and sentenced to death on June 28, 1962, by the Service Court. He was executed by firing squad on July 6, 1962, at Fort d'Ivry, at the age of thirty seven. The following year, his live-in partner Nicole Gardy, daughter of General Paul Gardy, was also sentenced to death, but escaped with the entire Gardy family to Argentina. Argentina offered them lands in Misión Tacaaglé, a settlement in the Formosa province, near Paraguay.
Knight of the Legion of Honour, holder of the military medal for having rescued officers under enemy fire, and holder of the overseas operations war cross as well as the military valour cross, Roger Degueldre received nine commendations, two of which were with distinction. In his honour, Jean-Pax Méfret composed the song "Lieutenant Degueldre", which was released in 1968.
Having vowed to watch over Algeria for France, appalled by political decisions that disavowed the oath made him to feel serious guilty but he refused perjury and decided to see it through. He actually even transcended his own convictions, deliberately sacrificed his career and life for what he considered the true crown of honour.
“Speech, often considered as mere words by a politician, becomes a terrible issue for a man of arms; what the former says glibly or treacherously, the latter writes it down on dust with his blood, and that is why he is highly honoured by everyone, and many look down when in front of him.”