The students of the Saumur Cavalry School, the cadets, stayed in front of the enemy rather than retreat to Montauban when the German enemy arrived at the gates of Saumur and Marshal Pétain negotiated the armistice. Trained in the science of combat, benefiting from exhilarating moral principles, the School could not shirk the moment the enemy arrived at its gates. Although not organized for battle, the Saumur School prepared to repel the Germans: its prestige and honor were at stake.
Colonel Michon's combat headquarters was set up on Tuesday, June 18 at 1:30 p.m. on the ridge 800 meters east of the Saumur castle. 2,190 men were assembled in Saumur, including 870 cadets. On Wednesday 19 June at 00:15, the first clashes took place and German armoured vehicles were put out of action. The cadets then destroyed all the bridges leading to Saumur and crossing the Loire River, thus losing precious time to the German army. These bridges were not rebuilt until after the war.
The Montsoreau viaduct, one of the first structures destroyed, Auto Passion special issue n°10 "Les blindés du Monde
Lieutenant Desplats held the island of Saumur with the 11th brigade. It was two kilometers long. At 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 19, the decision was made to destroy the bridge linking the island to the south shore. The 11th Brigade could no longer withdraw or be reinforced. Lieutenant Desplats spent the night encouraging his cadets, telling them, among other things, "You make the sacrifice of your life once, then you are a soldier. On June 20, at 5 a.m., he fell with some of his students and the survivors were taken prisoner. The Germans seized the town of Saumur on June 21. At the beginning of July 1940, the Germans seemed touched by the indomitable courage and self-sacrifice shown by the cadets. The general commanding the German cavalry division returned the sword to the cadets and freed them in front of Saumur.
The legend of the Saumur cadets is still alive today among the young cadets of the Saumur Cavalry School, future officers of the Armored Cavalry Regiment (ABC).