The Bravery of Lt-Col Arnaud Beltrame

While I was away in Morocco, a young Moroccan Islamist went on a murdering spree in the south of France, ending up in a supermarket where he took a woman hostage. A police officer on the scene, one Lt-Col Arnaud Beltrame, traded places with her in a move of monumental bravery that cost him his life:

French President Emmanuel Macron also paid tribute to the officer, saying that Col Arnaud “fell as a hero” after showing “exceptional courage and selflessness”, adding that he deserved “the respect and admiration of the whole nation”.

The whole world, even. Note that Beltrame was a Lt-Col, and would have been one of the senior officers on the scene. When the time came to show leadership, he stepped up.

Mr Collomb told reporters on Friday that police officers had managed to get some people out of the supermarket but the gunman had held one woman back as a human shield.

It was at this point, he said, that Col Beltrame had volunteered to swap himself for her.

As he did so, he left his mobile phone on a table with an open line so that police outside could monitor the situation.

When police heard gunshots, a tactical team stormed the supermarket. The gunman was killed and Col Beltrame was mortally wounded.

One may contrast the brave and selfless actions of Col Beltrame with those of the Deputy Sheriff who refused to confront the lunatic during the Parkland school shootings, even as children were being murdered, and with his superiors afterwards. We may also contrast the disregard for his own safety Col Beltrame displayed with that of the US police who dress for full combat and shoot unarmed people through “fear of their lives”. Cheese-eating surrender-monkeys, indeed.

That the French are cowards is a common slur on that nation*, one that is nonsense. French policemen have shown considerable bravery over the course of several attacks on civilians by Islamic lunatics, running towards the sound of shots even knowing they’re likely to be outgunned when they get there. Hopefully Col Beltrame’s sacrifice will put that stupid notion to bed forever. For my part, I’m rather glad I have French policemen around me, offering whatever protection they can.

*This mostly stems from their surrender to the Germans in 1940, and their reluctance to fight another war. Having been to Verdun, and knowing how much France suffered during WWI, their desire to avoid another war was understandable, particularly once their position on the battlefield had deteriorated so rapidly. Great Britain lost three-quarters of a million men during WWI, the French 1.1m. However, with much of the fighting taking place in France the civilian casualties were much higher and, coupled with disease, accounted for 4% of its population killed. Added to that were 4.2m wounded, compared with 1.6m British soldiers.

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42 thoughts on “The Bravery of Lt-Col Arnaud Beltrame

  1. Yes I think that it was their sudden and surprising defeat during the German Blitzkrieg and WW1 French hero Petain’s establishment of the Vichy government that earned them their “cowardly” tag, some french were not happy with their declaration of war and invasion of Germany. Life in France was relatively okay during this period when the Germans strategically occupied the north in a pretext to prevent a British invasion. The UK and De Gaulle hated Petain and Vichy for their neutral stance and I think the propaganda of that era has stuck. The French civilians did cop it big time again following the Normandy invasion, death by bombing was huge, then the rape, then the revenge meted out against the folk whose only crime was not to have resisted the German occupation which by all accounts was quite civilised. Petain’s war hero status was such that they could not hang him.

    And lets not forget Napoleon.

  2. The thing that strikes me about many of the US stories about cops shooting people is that the cops are routinely cowardly. It seems to be the norm. And juries don’t seem to mind.

  3. Am I reading the quote wrong, or did the French cops accidentally shoot their Lt?

  4. Wikipedia reports that the expression “Cheese eating surrender monkeys” originated in a 1995 script of The Simpsons, so is perhaps not a considered opinion from a reliable source (except on humour). Over centuries, the French armed services have a reputation for both serious competence and bravery – as do the British and American forces – all doubtless with the odd splattering of military mistakes.

    London police officer Keith Palmer died from injuries incurred in the line of duty on 22 March 2017, by tackling alone a knife-wielding terrorist attempting to enter parliament. He was posthumously awarded the George Cross.

    USA police officer Andrew Hopfensperger Jr. on 23 April 2016 tackled (his handgun against a semi-automatic rifle) by first distracting from killing students and then shooting the gunman. From his first awareness of the situation to bringing down the gunman took 19 seconds.

    Lt-Col Arnaud Beltrame knowingly placed himself in significant danger through exchanging for a female civillian hostage: he paid the highest price.

    There’s a lot of bravery about – in many countries.

    Best regards

  5. France’s demographic imbalance and loss of men due to war goes back even further than 1914 – The Franco-Prussian war of 1870 saw a huge loss of fighting men such that it had not recovered forty years later. French laws upon abortion have always been about replenishing the population and were nothing to do with the Catholic church, especially once laws upon Lacite were in place.

    In the end they got *seriously* strict about it:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie-Louise_Giraud

  6. “I cannot imagine a British policeman doing this. Once, I would have.”

    I can imagine a junior PC volunteering to do so, and being told by his superiors to forget it due to ‘Health and Safety’. I cannot imagine one of the fat cat Chief Constables getting anywhere near anything more dangerous than a cheese board. Those sharp cheese knives though, maybe not…….

  7. @ Matthew McConnagay: No, I think it’s just clumsy phrasing – the Islamist opened fire and then they stormed the place. At least, I hope.

  8. The issue is not so much that these guys are heroes and those guys over there are cowards. There are heroes and cowards in every group and you never really know who’s who until the proverbial shit hits the fan. The problem is that police forces are so bureaucratic and rule-bound that actually punish cops who do the right thing and run towards the sound of gunfire. With incentives like that in place, no wonder everything is screwed up.

  9. I cannot imagine a British policeman doing this. Once, I would have.

    As Jim says, I could perhaps imagine an ordinary PC acting on impulse and in defiance of his orders doing this, but it’s not what Lt-Col Arnaud Beltrame did. It appears he, a senior officer, took the sober and measured decision to swap places with the hostage believing he thought it was his duty to be placed in danger rather than her, an ordinary civilian.

    The idea of a senior British policeman of similar rank swapping places with a hostage in an ongoing situation is literally incredible.

  10. There’s a lot of bravery about – in many countries.

    Yes, there are. My point wasn’t that American policemen are never brave, but to highlight that several have proved to be absolute cowards.

  11. Am I reading the quote wrong, or did the French cops accidentally shoot their Lt?

    That might well be the case, but in a hostage situation where police storm a building this is a real possibility and can’t be blamed on them. He was also stabbed, which I’d hope wasn’t from one of his own men.

  12. France’s demographic imbalance and loss of men due to war goes back even further than 1914 – The Franco-Prussian war of 1870 saw a huge loss of fighting men such that it had not recovered forty years later.

    That’s interesting, thanks.

  13. There is a very fine line between a hero and a coward… and you can change between the two in an instant. I believe the idea of duty is more important here, I have a friend who was in the Gendarmerie Nationale, I believe he had rank similar to Lt-Col Arnaud Beltrame… as with the better classes of men he did not feel the need to talk endlessly about his exact rank.

    My friends sense of duty was stronger than that of a British police officers slavish adherence to health and safety. I am not surprised by the action of Beltrame, and I too could not believe that any modern high ranking member of the British police force would do this.

    I know that the Gendarmerie Nationale is not seen to be your friend… but France is very lucky to have such an organisation.

  14. I also think the cheese eating surrender monkeys is unfair.

    What is almost certainly forgotten is the resistance of the French Communists to mobilisation and once the war was joined the sabotage. I have read historical accounts of French Brigades immobilised by railways unions, and officers being murdered.

    I don’t know how significant communists (following Hitlers ally Stalin orders) were but there influence explains alot of the French collapse.

    I also believe left wing academia are capable of cobering up NAZI Communist collusion to ensure that Hitler committed crimes for the right.

  15. Brave or not, in the face of the ongoing invasion of La Belle France, the courage of the police is irrelevant (all honor to this particular officer). It’s the politicians who need to man up and close the gates (and then purge the barbarians within).

    I’m not going to hold my breath on that.

  16. “resistance of the French Communists to mobilisation”

    Not forgetting the repeated pro-Russian overt supporting strategic actions by Eisenhower in continually stopping his troops advances on Germany and allowing the Russians to seize more east European territory and eventually Berlin.

    Paton wrote of his 3rd Armies potential, “At the present time our chief difficulty is not the Germans, but gasoline. If they would give me enough gas, I could go all the way to Berlin!”

    Then the question about why the invasion was not fully launched through the soft underbelly of Europe or Austrian Germany as opposed to a heavily fortified northern France. It wasn’t only Paton that felt hamstrung. Montgomery clashed with Eisenhower especially after he refused to capitalise on the German surrender of Rome without a fight then allowing the German army to retreat and regroup and the Russians to gain more ground.

    The less publicised second D-Day landing at Marseilles made fast ground to the Rhine at Strasbourg to discover that the German posts on the other side had been abandoned, yet Eisenhower again personally intervened and ordered them not to cross the Rhine. Once again allowing the Germans to regroup to such an extent that they mounted their counter offensive which led to the Battle of the Bulge which is the US’s biggest casualty in battle. Not only lost opportunity and mass casualties but allowing the Russians to advance further eastwards and claim more territory.

    Decision at Strasbourg: Ike’s Strategic Mistake to Halt the Sixth Army Group at the Rhine in 1944 by David P. Colley

  17. French laws upon abortion have always been about replenishing the population and were nothing to do with the Catholic church

    Following the appalling losses of French men during WW1, the French introduced family Allowance (which in the UK has morphed into Child Benefit) but not for the first child. It was a subsidy from the Governemtn to breed plenty of good little soldiers. Remember, the State is NOT your friend and if they pay you to have children, then the children belong (indirectly) to the State.

    Britain thought that this was a spiffing idea and introduced family Allowance, again only for the second and subsequent children. Remember this when you hear sheeple whingeing about how they want money for the first child too and increases in the rates of Child Allowance. The State owns your children and in the event of another war, you will find out that they can and will requisition your offspring for whatever purpose they want.

    The death of the officer is both tragic and inspiring – as commentators have pointed out above, I doubt that a British Police officer would have done that and the French Police force can proudly hold its head up having done its duty.

    No doubt the weasel politicians will make capital from the incident and still let more of the barbarians in through the gates. A pox on them all.

  18. In honor of LTC Beltame, I’ll never laugh at a cowardly-French joke again. Seriously.

  19. “When Morocco sends its people, they’re not sending their best.”

    From Gates of Vienna

    The Night the Moroccans Came

    Moroccan troops known as Goumiers formed part of the Free French army that fought with the Allies in Italy during World War Two. After the victory at Monte Cassino — in which the Goumiers had played a crucial role — bands of Moroccans rampaged through mountain villages in the area, raping all the women and girls they could lay their hands on, and sometimes men and boys as well.

    (Ida Di Cuffo – inhabitant of Esperia (Fr)) One of them came in, the other remained outside. My father, when he saw the one that came in, said, “What’s happening now?” and tried to block him. The one outside shot him. He died instantly his head back like this – Papa’

    (Angelo de Santis – inhabitant of Castro dei Volsci (Fr)) My sister was hiding in a barn with other women trying to protect themselves,
    but was found by four or five, don’t know how many of them …

    (Amalia Colozzi – inhabitant of Esperia (Fr)) I saw my sister with blood running down her legs and I asked my mother “What’s happened to Filomena?”

    “She fell.” (my mother replied)

  20. Tim, JuliaM – yeah, I only mention it because IIRC that’s what happened at the Lindt cafe siege in Sydney a while back. Terrorist shoots a hostage, SWAT storms in, kills terrorist, fragment ricochet from SWAT bullets kill a pregnant woman. According to an armchair expert on my Facebook feed, it’s because the cops were using the wrong type of gun or bullets or something, and the dangerous ricocheting of bullet fragments would have been predictable to someone with relevant expertise.

    None of which would take away from the bravery of anybody involved of course, just something to consider.

  21. It’s the politicians who need to man up and close the gates (and then purge the barbarians within).

    +1

    But it is the people who elect the politicians.

  22. I cannot imagine a British policeman doing this

    Was three days after the anniversary of Keith Palmer’s death really the time to make this rather unjustified comment?

  23. On the subject of Keith Palmer, he died because he tackled a knife-wielding lunatic while unarmed. He was unarmed because those who rule over us thought it looked bad if policemen guarding Parliament carried guns, because people might start to think we had a security problem.

  24. TIm,

    Yet, every time I go through a train station, there’s a copper with an MP-5 or similar.

    Is it really just the HoP that don’t arm the cops?

  25. Is it really just the HoP that don’t arm the cops?

    I don’t know, but I think it was a tourist thing. People want tourists to get a photo of a nice-looking unarmed bobby standing in front of the HoP, not robocop armed to the teeth. Tourists might then wonder if something is up in the UK.

  26. Beltrame was a hero and an exemplar of chivalry.

    That being said, I think it is a bit unfair to compare the Gendarmerie with our police. The Gendarmes are a para-military force who come under the control of the Ministry of Defence, not a civilian police force. Their ethos is very different.

  27. The French are not cowards. No more than anyone else, at the very least.

    I may disagree with their socialist-leaning politics built on subsidising an (inefficient?) agrarian economy, but I have no doubt about their bravery in battle.

  28. I passed the Palace of Westminster two days ago and there were armed police, both there and at the gates to downing Street. Tourists were taking pictures of them. Do you have any source for this idea that ‘those who rule over us thought it looked bad if policemen guarding Parliament carried guns’? Because it doesn’t seem to match the reality that there are, in fact, armed police guarding Parliament.

    Of course not all of them are armed; I think in PC Palmer’s case he was simply the closest person there, and was not armed.

    But, frankly, I don’t think I would want armed police to open fire on an attacker in the grounds of Parliament who is armed only with a knife, at least until the area has been cleared; the danger of a stray shot accidentally killing someone innocent who just happened to be in the vicinity (whether MP or tourist) is just too high. The guns are (I hope) there only in the case that somehow either enemies with firearms manage to get to the gates, or someone tries to drive a vehicle into them, in both of which cases the danger is already so great that adding police bullets to the mix is justified.

  29. I may disagree with their socialist-leaning politics built on subsidising an (inefficient?) agrarian economy, but I have no doubt about their bravery in battle.

    Bernard Fall’s Street Without Joy gives a good insight. What you hear almost nothing about is how these men fared when they returned home.

  30. Because it doesn’t seem to match the reality that there are, in fact, armed police guarding Parliament.

    There are now, because Keith Palmer was unarmed and got murdered.

  31. “There are now, because Keith Palmer was unarmed and got murdered.”

    Nah, Tim. There have been armed police at the entrances to the HoP for at least the last twenty years, with some additional woodentops .

  32. Nah, Tim. There have been armed police at the entrances to the HoP for at least the last twenty years, with some additional woodentops .

    You mean the alt-right Twitter feeds are wrong on this point?! I don’t believe it!

  33. Yes, thanks Tim for rejecting the French cowardice meme.
    I’ve lived in France. part of the time in a small Flandres village. There were 26 names from WW1 on the war memorial. From a village, at the time, couldn’t have numbered more than a few hundred. The village itself was in the front line in both ’14 & ’18 & virtually nothing now remaining was built pre ’14.
    And worth remembering, Dunkirk largely owed its success to the French cordon around the port, enabled the British embarkation. The French army stood & fought so the Brits could run away.
    Part of the reason for the French collapse in ’40 was bloody obvious every time I took the dog for a walk. The blockhouse stuck out in a field a few hundred meters from the Belgian frontier. Said frontier being a line on a map with no defensible features. The French military command simply didn’t understand the concept of a modern war of movement & thought in terms of static defences. The French military defeat was a failure of battle management not the French soldiers. Where they fought, they fought with great resilience.
    The grandmere of the French family, seems to have adopted me as an extra son, was in the Resistance. A lot of French were. There’s a village in the Bordeaux region preserved as a monument to what happened to resisters of the Occupation. Left just as it was when the last villager was murdered. I’m far from convinced an Occupied Britain would have had the guts the French had

  34. A lot of French were.

    Even more claimed to be afterwards, too. Much more.

    There’s a village in the Bordeaux region preserved as a monument to what happened to resisters of the Occupation.

    Yeah, I’ve heard about that. Or perhaps it’s another one I’m thinking of, where a massacre took place.

    Left just as it was when the last villager was murdered. I’m far from convinced an Occupied Britain would have had the guts the French had

    So am I.

  35. “Even more claimed to be afterwards, too. Much more.”

    And a cause of considerable friction, even today. Families had members in the Resistance. Families with those claimed they were. Families that did quite well from the Occupation. Memories in France are long & sometimes bitter.
    Think this contributes much to the French character. Why they’re nowhere near as abjectly supine as the Brits.

  36. BiS,

    Indeed, the degree to which each European country’s wartime and post-war experience contributes to what we now call “national character” cannot be underestimated, and explains a huge amount of the differences between each country. The best example is Brexit: mainland Europeans don’t want another war on their territory at any cost, independence be damned. But Brits haven’t been occupied, not seen the horrors of war in their towns and villages the way Europeans have, and we have a rather proud record of independence and repelling European invaders.

    To their credit, ordinary Europeans don’t seem to mind Brexit, and think it’s our business whether good or bad. The only ones who are foaming at the mouth are the British ruling classes, their supporters, and those Europeans with snouts in the EU trough.

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