Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Jules Bonnot was born in Pont-de-Roide , France on October 14, 1876, and was orphaned by the age of five. He apparently tried to become a automobile mechanic with little success in Lyon. By the time he organized the gang, he already had a criminal record listing a variety of crimes ranging from aggravated assaults to automobile theft and money forgery. He was also a suspect in various burglaries and one murder.
Bonnot’s Gang originally consisted of a group of French anarchists centered around the magazine l'Anarchie. The founder of the group of was Raymond Callemin (nicknamed Raymond la Science) who regarded Mikhail Bakunin and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon as his role models. Jules Bonnot joined them in December 1911. His ideas were more part with late anarchist Ravachol .
The first robbery by Bonnot’s Gang was at the money transfer of Societe Generale Bank in Paris on December 21, 1911. They escaped with an automobile (a Delaunay-Belleville) they had stolen a week before. Robbers – Bonnot, Octave Garnier, Eugene Dieudonne and Raymond Callemin – got booty equal to 5,126 Francs, but rest of it was composed of securities. The gang had the dubious honor of being the first to use an automobile to flee the scene of a crime, presaging by over twenty years the later methods of John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde.
On December 28, 1911 the gang broke into a gun shop in the Paris center. A few days later, on the night of January 2, 1912, they entered the home of the wealthy M. Moreau and brutally murdered both him and his maid. The booty take was equal to 30,000 Francs, and the horrid crime aroused a public outcry.
French Central Police Sûreté Nationale did its best to catch the gang. They were able to arrest one man based on their registry of anarchist organizations. The Gang fled temporarily to Belgium, where they sold the stolen automobile and tried to carjack another. In the process they shot a Belgian policeman.
The gang continued their automobile thefts and robberies, shooting two more policemen in the process. Most of the automobiles they stole were expensive and uncommon, many of them being taken not from the street, but from garages.
By March 1912, police had arrested many of the gang’s supporters and knew many of the members' faces and names. In March 1912, gang member and would-be leader Octave Garnier sent a mocking letter to the Sûreté – with his fingerprints. In those days, the French police still did not yet use fingerprinting.
On March 25, 1912, the gang stole a de Dion-Bouton automobile in the Sénart Forest south of Paris by shooting the driver in the head. They drove into Chantilly north of Paris where they robbed the local branch of Société Générale Bank – shooting the Banks's three cashiers. They escaped in their stolen automobile as two policemen tried to catch them, one on horseback and the other on a bicycle.
Another public outcry ensued. Sûreté Chief Xavier Guichard took the matter personally. Even politicians became concerned, increasing police funding by 800,000 Francs. Banks began to prepare for forthcoming robberies and many cashiers armed themselves. The Société Générale promised a reward of 100,000 Francs for information that would lead to arrests.
Pursuit and capture
On March 30, police arrested Andrey Soudy at the English Channel coast – he announced that he did not care whether he died of tuberculosis or by guillotine. Eduard Carouy was arrested April 3. Raymond Callemin was arrested April 7, and police had to prevent an angry mob from lynching him on the spot. Antoine Monnier was arrested in Paris on April 24. By the end of that month, police had arrested 28 gang members and supporters. Still, Bonnot, Octave Garnier and Rene Valet remained at large.
On April 24, three policeman surprised Bonnot in the apartment of a suspected fence. He shot at the officers, killing one and wounding another, and then fled over the rooftops. Part of the 100,000 Fr reward was later given to the widow of the killed policeman, Jouin.
On April 28, police had tracked Bonnot to a house in the Paris suburb of Choisy le Roi . They besieged the place with 500 armed policemen, soldiers, firemen, military engineers and private gun-owners. By noon, after a sporadic firing from both sides, Paris Police Chief Lépines sent three policemen to put a dynamite charge under the house. The explosion demolished the front of the building. Bonnot was hiding in the middle of a mattress and tried to shoot back until Lépines shot him non-fatally in the head. Afterwards police again had to prevent the spectators from lynching Bonnot. They simply told the crowd that Bonnot was already dead and had been buried in a secret grave.
On the evening of May 14, Octave Garnier and Rene Valet were besieged in the Paris suburb of Nogent sur Marne by a large force including 300 policemen and gendarmes and 800 soldiers. Sûreté Chief Xavier Guichard himself led the siege. The firing from both sides was intense, and at 2 AM, Guichard decided to blow the place up. Garnier died in the explosion, but Valet tried to keep firing despite his wounds.
The trial of the Gang's survivors began on February 3, 1913. Viktor Serge was sentenced to five years for robbery. All the others were initially sentenced to death. The sentence of Eugene Dieudonne was commuted to life imprisonment. Sentences of Eduard Carouy and Marius Metge were commuted to life imprisonment at hard labor. Carouy later committed suicide. Metge was sent to a penal colony. Raymond Callemin, Antoine Monnier and Andre Soudy refused to plead for clemency and they were executed by guillotine.
See Doug Imrie's article, "The Illegalists" at the Stan Iverson Archives
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