Montluçon is a commune in central France on the Cher river. It is the largest commune in the Allier department, although the department's préfecture is located in the smaller town of Moulins. Its inhabitants are known as Montluçonnais. The town is in the traditional province of Bourbonnais and was part of the mediaeval duchy of Bourbon.
Montluçon was built in the Middle Ages. The first mention of a place called Monte Lucii (Mont de Lucius) dates from the eleventh century. Guillaume, son of Archambaud IV of Bourbon, built the castle in a defensible position on a small rocky hill on a bend in the Cher River.
Montluçon became the administrative seat of the area in 1791, then entered the industrial revolution thanks to the presence of coalpits at in Commentry, the (Canal de Berry in 1830 and the railway in 1864. These transport links allowed the import of ore and export of coal, wood and manufactured goods. The population grew from 5000 inhabitants in 1830 to 50 000 in 1950.
World War II
During the Second World War, the Germans occupied the Dunlop tire plant (even though Montluçon was in the free zone) to exploit the research lab to synthesize rubber, since natural rubber could not be imported by the Nazis. The manufacturing of tires for Luftwaffe aircraft was also of interest for the Nazis.
A notable act of resistance occurred in the city on January 6, 1943 when a mob of citizens overran guards supervising a massive deportation of men to Germany in accordance with the Service de Travail Obligatoire (Obligatory Work Service) plan that sent able Frenchmen to fill vacancies in German factories during the war. All the men who were to be deported managed to escape into the countryside, evading the forced industrial service awaiting them in the Reich.
Since 1945, traditional industry (blast furnaces and glassware) has declined. Today Montluçon has chemical industries, tire manufacture (Dunlop), and electronics (Sagem), and more recently a technopole at La Loue was established for high-tech companies.
New Zealand-born Australian Nancy Wake, the most decorated woman of World War Two, led her small army of resistance fighters in the countryside around Montlucon. On March 11, 2013 Nancy Wake's ashes were scattered in a small wood outside Montlucon. The ceremony was followed by a civic reception in the town. Nancy Wake died in August 2011, aged 98.