30 November 2013

WORLD WAR II (1939-1945)

Terms Used Throughout This Section

Abwehr ~ The Abwehr was a German intelligence-gathering organization from 1921-1944. It dealt exclusively with human intelligence, especially raw intelligence reports from field agents and other sources.

Axis Powers ~ Also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries or the Axis. The Axis powers were nations that fought in WWII against the Allied forces. They were united by their opposition to the Western world and the Soviet Union, describing their goals as "breaking the hegemony of plutocratic-capitalist Western powers and defending civilization from communism." Countries included Germany (Achsenmächte), Japan (枢軸国 Sūjikukoku) and Italy (Potenze dell'Asse).

Concentration Camps ~ There were 39 female SOE agents who were sent to France and 13 of them never returned. One died a natural death soon after her arrival. The remaining 12 were captured in France by the German Gestapo and executed in concentration camps:
  • Dachau ~ Yolande Beekman, Madeleine Damerment, Noor Inayat Khan, Eliane Plewman
  • Natzweiler-Struthof ~ Vera Leigh, Sonya Olschanezky, Diana Rowden
  • Ravensbruck ~ Denise Bloch, Andree Borrel, Cecily Lefort, Lilian Rolfe, Violette Szabo
Enigma Machine ~ An Enigma machine was any of a family of related electro-mechanical rotor cipher machines used in the 20th century for enciphering and deciphering secret messages. Enigma was invented by the German engineer Arthur Scherbius at the end of World War I. Early models were used commercially from the early 1920s, and adopted by military and government services of several countries—most notably by Nazi Germany before and during World War II. Several different Enigma models were produced, but the German military models are the most commonly discussed.

First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) ~ A British independent, all-female unit and registered charity affiliated to, but not part of, the Territorial Army, formed in 1907 and active in both nursing and intelligence work during the World Wars. AKA Princess Royal's Volunteer Corps.


In September 1938, the FANY Corps was asked to form the initial Motor Driver Companies of the Auxiliary Territorial Service, called the Women's Transport Service.

A small part of FANY - highly secret at the time and later famous - served as a parent unit for many women who undertook espionage work for the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Recruits were trained in one of four fields: Motor Transport, Wireless Telegraphy, Codes or General. They worked on coding and signals, acting as conductors for agents and providing administration and technical support for the Special Training Schools. Their work was top secret and often highly skilled. Members operated in several theatres of war, including North Africa, Italy, India and the Far East.

Thirty-nine of the agents sent by SOE to France were commissioned into the Corps: twelve were captured by the Germans and died in concentration camps. Many decorations, of both the UK and other countries, were awarded for their service and outstanding courage. Among these, four of the highest UK decorations were the George Cross awarded to Odette Sansom (who was incarcerated and tortured, but survived the war), to Violette Szabo and Noor Inayat Khan (both perished in captivity and were decorated posthumously). Nancy Wake's awards included the George Medal.

A memorial at St. Paul's Church, Knightsbridge commemorates 52 named members who were killed on active service with the Corps in World War II.


Fresnes Prison ~ The second largest prison in France, Fresnes was used by the Germans to house captured British SOE agents and members of the French Resistance. Held in horrific conditions, these prisoners were tortured and some died there. As soon as the Allied forces broke through at Normandy and fought their way to liberate Paris, the Gestapo peremptorily killed prisoners at Fresnes. Suzanne Spaak, a French Resistance operative, was executed there on 12 Aug 1944, less than two weeks before the city was liberated.

Intelligence Networks ~ Also known as circuits (or réseaux to their French participants) these networks were established by the "F" Section (France) of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). For a complete list, click HERE. Women mentioned in this Blog:
  • Acrobat ~ Diana Rowden, Courier.
  • Bricklayer ~ Madeleine Damerment, Courier.
  • Cinema ~ Noor Inayat Khan, Wireless Operator.
  • Clergyman ~ Denise Bloch, Wireless Operator.
  • Detective ~ Blance Charlet, Courier. Denise Bloch, Wireless Operator.
  • Donkeyman ~ Peggy Knight, Courier.
  • Farrier ~ Juliane Aisner, Courier. 
  • Fireman ~ Patricia O'Sullivan, Wireless Operator.
  • Headmaster ~ Sonya Butt, Courier.
  • Historian ~ Lillian Rolfe, Wireless Operator.
  • Inventor ~ Vera Leigh, Courier.
  • Jocky ~ Christine Granville & Cecily Lefort, Couriers.
  • Juggler (aka Robin) ~ Sonya Olschanezky, Courier & Administrator.
  • Marksman ~ Devereaux Rochester, Courier.
  • Minister ~ Yvonne Fontaine, Courier.
  • Monk (aka Monkeypuzzle) ~ Eliane Plewman, Courier. Jean Dubois, Wireless Operator.
  • Musician ~ Yolande Beekman, Wireless Operator.
  • Permit ~ Ginette Jullian, Courier.
  • Physician (aka Prosper) ~ Francine Agazarian, Andree Borrell & Yvonne Rudellat, Couriers.
  • Salesman ~ Violette Szabo, Courier.
  • Scholar ~ Yvonne Baseden, Wireless Operator.
  • Scientist ~ Lise De Baissac & Mary Katherine Herbert, Couriers. Phyliss Latour, Wireless Operator.
  • Silversmith ~ Madeleine Lavigne, Courier & Wireless Operator.
  • Spindle ~ Odette Sansom, Courier.
  • Spiritualist ~ Eileen Nearne, Wireless Operator
  • Spruce (aka Plane) ~ Marie-Therese Le Chene & Madeleine Lavigne, Couriers.
  • Stationer ~ Jacqueline Nearne & Pearl Witherington, Couriers.
  • Tinker ~ Yvonne Fontaine, Courier.
  • Ventriloquist ~ Muriel Byck, Wireless Operator.
  • Wheelwright ~ Anne-Marie Walters, Courier. Yvonne Cormeau, Wireless Operator.
  • Wizard ~ Eileen Nearne, Wireless Operator.
July Plot ~ the abortive attempt on 20 Jul 1944, by German military leaders to assassinate Adolf Hitler, seize control of the government and seek more favorable peace terms from the Allies.

Maquis (pronounced ma'ki) ~ Rural guerrilla bands of French Resistance fighters, called maquisards, during the occupation of France in WWII. Initially, they were composed of men who had escaped into the mountains to avoid conscription into Vicy France's Service du travall obligatoire (STO) to provide forced labor for Germany. To avert capture and deportation to Germany, they became increasingly organized into active resistance groups.

Morale Operations (MO) ~ A branch of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during WWII. It utilized psychological warfare, particularly propaganda, to produce specific psychological reactions in both the general population and military forces of the Axis powers in support of larger Allied political and military objectives.

Purple (cipher machine) ~ In the history of cryptography, 97-shiki ōbun inji-ki (九七式欧文印字機, System 97 Printing Machine for European Characters) or Angōki B-kata (暗号機B型, Type B Cipher Machine),code named "Purple" by the United States, was a diplomatic cryptographic machine used by the Japanese Foreign Office just before and during World War II. The information gained from decryptions was eventually code-named "Magic" within the U.S. government. The code name "Purple" referred to binders used by U.S. cryptanalysts for material produced by various systems

Red Orchestra (Die Rote Kapelle) ~ Coined by the Reichssicherheitshauptampt (RSHA), this was the counter-espionage arm of the SS, which referred to resistance radio operators as 'pianists', their transmitters as 'pianos' and their supervisors as 'conductors'. The RSHA included three independent espionage networks in the Red Orchestra: the Trepper group (in Germany, France and Belgium), the Lucy spy ring (in Switzerland) and the Schultz-Boysen/Harnack group (in Berlin).

Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service) ~ The intelligence agency of the SS and Nazi Party. It was the first Nazi Party intelligence organization to be established and was often a "sister organization" with the Gestapo. 

Special Operations Executive (SOE) ~ On July 22, 1910 the SOE was officially formed by the British Minister of Economic Warfare, Hugh Dalton, to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe against the Axis powers (Germany, Japan and Italy) and to aid local resistance movements.

It was initially also involved in the formation of the Auxiliary Units, a top secret "stay-behind" resistance organization which would have been activated in the event of a German invasion of Britain.

Few people were aware of SOEs existence. To those who were part of it or liaised with it, it was sometimes referred to as "the Baker Street Irregulars", after the location of its London headquarters. It was also known as "Churchill's Secret Army" or the "Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare". For security purposes, various branches, and sometimes the organisation as a whole, were concealed behind names such as the "Joint Technical Board" or the "Inter-Service Research Bureau", or fictitious branches of the Air Ministry, Admiralty or War Office.

The SOE operated in all countries or former countries occupied by or attacked by the Axis powers, except where demarcation lines were agreed with Britain's principal allies (the Soviet Union and the United States). It also made use of neutral territory on occasion, or made plans and preparations in case neutral countries were attacked by the Axis. The organisation directly employed or controlled just over 13,000 people, about 3,200 of whom were women. It is estimated that SOE supported or supplied about 1,000,000 operatives worldwide.

After the war, the organisation was officially dissolved on 15 Jan 1946. A memorial to SOEs agents was unveiled in London in October 2009. It is situated on the Albert Embankment by Lambeth Palace. 


Click HERE for a list of female SOE agents.

24 November 2013

Lorraine Adie (1921-2013)

DOSSIER:
Elizabeth Lorraine Adie was born in 1921 in Scotland. She worked for British Intelligence in the Special Operations Executive (SOE). It was during this period that she met her American husband, Miles Copeland, Jr.

The married on 25 Sept 1942 and had four children: Miles, Ian, Lorraine "Lennie" and Stewart (best known as the drummer for the band The Police). 

Found at www.andmagazine.com


FAMED CIA WIDOW DIES
LORRAINE COPELAND WAS A DARING WW-2 OPERATIVE HERSELF


Lorraine Adie Copeland, the widow of a famed CIA official who was a daring World War Two operative in her own right, died Saturday in her chateau in the south of France, surrounded by family members. She was 92*.

The daughter of a wealthy Scots neurosurgeon, Copeland was a secret agent with Britain's Special Operations Executive, a sabotage and subversion service that Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered to "set [Nazi-occupied] Europe ablaze."

She was awarded the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and the Distinguished Service Cross for her wartime exploits, according to a family friend.

It was while serving with the SOE that she met her life's mate, Miles Copeland, Jr., who had been assigned to London as a counterintelligence specialist with the OSS, America's wartime spying and sabotage outfit. They married in 1943*.

After the war, her husband became a founding member of the fledgling CIA, and began a long string of Middle East assignments. It was there that she developed an interest in the region's paleolithic period. Over the years, she authored or co-authored several dense archeological studies of prehistoric Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and North Africa.

"Her books and have always stopped me at the second word," her son Stewart, the famed drummer for The Police, jibed in his 2010 autobiography, Strange Things Happen: A Life with The Police, Polo, and Pygmies. "They start with "The," followed by an unpronounceable fourteen-syllable word."

While Lorraine was dusting rocks, her husband was helping overthrow Middle East governments, most famously in Syria and as a key member of the CIA team that reinstalled the Shah of Iran on the Peacock Throne, according to several accounts and his own memoirs. He dedicated one of them, The Game Player: The Confessions of the CIA's Original Political Operative "to Lorraine, for overlooking and forgiving."

But she was also helping him with his spying chores, according to her son Miles Copeland III, best known for creating IRS Records and managing the 1980s mega-hit rock band The Police and later its lead singer, Sting.

"While living in Beirut. Lebanon she was involved with...keeping an eye on" Kim Philby, a senior British intelligence operative and KGB mole who later defected to Moscow, he said. "She was Kim's wife Eleanor Philby's best friend and recently contributed to a British TV documentary on the subject, as well as to the recent documentary on CIA agent Frank Kearns," a CBS correspondent who was also reporting to the agency.

Her husband died in 1991.

Born Elizabeth Lorraine Adie in Scotland in 1921, she was educated at the private Wyecombe Abbey in Buckinghamshire.

She died from colon cancer on Apr. 27, at the Chateau Marouatte, a restored 14th-century fortified castle in "the Dordogne," a region of southern France popular with British ex-pats.

At her side or en route, according to a family friend, were her sons Stewart and Miles and a daughter, Lennie, who is a writer and film producer. Another son, Ian, a prominent music producer, died in 2006.

Her interested in prehistory never flagged, her family said.

She was on the advisory board of the Stone Age Institute, of Bloomington, Ind., and "a member of the Perigord Historical and Archeological Society, involved in local French prehistory (such as the Lascaux cave paintings)," Miles said, "but kept up her archeological contacts in the Middle East, where many of her writings and artifacts have been bequeathed to the local Beirut museum." 

*Originally reported as 97 years old, and married in 1942, based on her Wikipedia entry. Updated Wednesday with input from the Copeland family.

Francine Agazarian (1913-1999)

DOSSIER:
Francoise Isabella "Francine" Agazarian was born on 9 May 1913.

CODE NAME:
Marguerite

She landed in France by Lysander aircraft on 17 Mar 1943, with Claude de Baissac and France Antelme. She was joining her husband Jack Agazarian and the Prosper network as a courier. It was deemed unusual a married couple working on the same network; after the war Francine clarified the situation:

"Although in the same network, my husband and I were not working together; as a radio operator he worked alone and transmitted from different locations every day. I was only responsible to Prosper (Francis Suttill) whom we all called Francois . He liked to use me for special errands because, France being my native land, I could get away from difficulties easily enough, particularly when dealing with officialdom.

Francois was an outstanding leader, clear-headed, precise, confident. I liked working on his instructions, and I enjoyed the small challenges he was placing in front of me. For instance calling at town halls in various districts of Paris to exchange the network's expired ration cards (manufactured in London) for genuine new ones. Mainly I was delivering his messages to his helpers: in Paris, in villages, or isolated houses in the countryside. From time to time I was also delivering demolition material received from England. And once, with hand-grenades in my shopping bag, I travelled in a train so full that I had to stand against a German NCO. This odd situation was not new to me. I had already experienced it for the first time on the day of my arrival on French soil, when I had to travel by train from Poitiers to Paris. A very full train also. I sat on my small suitcase in the corridor, a uniformed German standing close against me. But, that first time, tied to my waist, under my clothes, was a wide black cloth belt containing bank-notes for Prosper, a number of blank identity cards and a number of ration cards; while tucked into the sleeves of my coat were crystals for Prosper's radio transmitters; the crystals had been skilfully secured to my sleeves by Vera Atkins herself, before my departure from Orchard Court. My .32 revolver and ammunition were in my suitcase. The ludicrousness of the situation somehow eliminated any thoughts of danger.

In any case, I believe none of us in the field ever gave one thought to danger. Germans were everywhere, especially in Paris; one absorbed the sight of them and went on with the job of living as ordinarily as possible and applying oneself to one's work.

Because I worked alone, the times I liked best were when we could be together, Prosper (Francis Suttill), Denise (Andrée Borrel), Archambaud (Gilbert Norman), Marcel (Jack Agazarin) and I, sitting round a table, while I was decoding radio messages from London; we were always hoping to read the exciting warning to stand by, which would have meant that the liberating invasion from England was imminent."


As the network appeared to be close to being broken by the Germans, Francine and Jack returned to England by Lysander on 16 Jun 1943; arriving on that flight were Diana RowdenCecily Lefort and Noor Inayat Khan.

Jack returned to France, but was arrested on 30 Jul 1943 after falling for a German trap. He was tortured by the Gestapo for six months at Fresnes Prison and eventually sent to Flossenburg concentration camp where he was kept in solitary confinement.

After the war Francine settled in London. Her husband, Jack, did not come back from Flossenburg concentration camp; he was executed on 29 Mar 1945, one of the many SOE Agents killed by the Germans immediately before the camps were liberated.

Julienne Aisner (1919-1980s)


Vera Adkins (1908-2000)

DOSSIER:
Vera-May Rosenberg, daughter of Max Rosenberg and Zeffro Hilda Adkins, was born on 16 Jun 1908 in Galati, Romania. After the death of her father, Vera and her mother emigrated to Britain in 1937, a move made in response to the threatening political situation in Europe and the growing extremism and antisemitism in Romania.

CODE NAMES:
None Known

During her somewhat-gilded youth in Romania, where she lived on the large estate bought by her father at Crasna (now in Ukraine), Vera enjoyed the cosmopolitan society of Bucharest where she became close to the anti-Nazi German ambassador, Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg (executed after 1944 July Plot). Later she became involved with a young British pilot, Dick Ketton-Cremer, whom she had met in Egypt, and to whom she may have been briefly engaged. He was killed in action in the Battle of Crete on 23 May 1941. She was never to marry, and lived in a flat with her mother while working for SOE and until 1947 when Hilda died.

While in Romania, Vera came to know several diplomats who were members of British Intelligence, some of whom were later to support her application for British nationality, and to whom in view of her and her family's strong pro-British views, she may have provided information as a 'stringer'. She also worked as a translator and representative for an oil company.

In the spring of 1940, before joining SOE, Vera travelled to the Low Countries to provide money for a bribe to an Abwehr officer for a passport for her cousin, Felix, to escape from Romania. She was stranded in the Netherlands when the Germans invaded on 10 Mar 1940, and, after going into hiding, she was able to return to England late in 1940 with the assistance of a Belgian resistance network.

In February 1941, despite not being a British national, Vera joined the French section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), originally in a secretarial capacity, but soon as assistant to section head Colonel Maurice Buckmaster and a de facto intelligence officer. Her primary role was related to the recruitment and deployment of British agents in occupied France. She was also given responsibility for the 37 female SOE who would later work as couriers and wireless operators for the various circuits established by SOE. Vera also would take care of the 'housekeeping' related to the agent, such as ensuring they received their pay, checking that their clothing and papers were appropriate for their mission and acting as SOE liaison with their families, which included the sending out at regular intervals of anodyne pre-written letters.

She would often accompany agents to the airfields from which they would depart for France, and would carry out final security checks before waving them off. She did this for almost all of the women agents, each of whom she regarded as one of her 'girls', and to whom she felt a close affinity despite never herself serving in the field or undergoing military or signals training.

Vera did not usually arrive at F Section's Baker Street office until around 10 a.m., but always attended the daily section head meetings, and would often stay late in the signals room to await the decoded transmissions sent by agents in the field. Although not a popular officer with many of her colleagues, especially in view of her inability to admit to mistakes, she was trusted for her integrity, good organizational skills and exceptional memory. She was 5' 9" tall, liked to dress elegantly in tailored skirt-suits and was a lifelong smoker, preferring the 'Senior Service' brand.

Controversy has arisen as to why clues that one of F section's main spy networks had been penetrated by the Germans were not picked up, resulting in the failure to pull out agents at risk. Instead, several more were sent in. A radio operator for the Prosper circuit, Gilbert Norman, had sent a message omitting his true security check - a deliberate mistake. So why didn't Vera challenge Buckmaster when other signals from captured radios came in without checks? 

Vera, it is alleged, was negligent in letting Buckmaster repeat his errors at the expense of agents' lives, including 27 who the Germans arrested upon landing and later killed. Her biographer, Sarah Helm, believes that Vera, who still had relatives in Nazi occupied Europe, may have travelled to the Netherlands in 1940 and helped a cousin to escape by bribing Abwehr officials, and then later escaped from occupied Belgium through a resistance 'lifeline'. She did not tell SOE of this when she joined in 1941, and kept it secret for the rest of her life. Whatever the truth, Buckmaster was Vera's superior officer, and thus ultimately responsible for running SOE's French agents, and she remained a civilian and not even a British national until February 1944. It was Buckmaster who recklessly sent a reply to the message supposedly sent by Norman telling him, and thus the actual German operator, that he had forgotten his 'true' check and to remember it in future.

It was not until after the end of the war that Atkins learnt of the almost total success the Germans had had by 1943 in destroying SOE networks in the Low Countries by playing the Funkspiel (radio game), by which radio operators were captured and forced to give up their codes and 'bluffs', so that German intelligence (Abwehr in the Netherlands; Sicherheitsdienst in France) officers could impersonate the agents and play them back against HQ in London. For some reason, Buckmaster and Atkins were not informed of the total collapse of the circuits in the Netherlands (N Section) and Belgium (T Section) due to the capture and control of wireless operators by the Abwehr. This may have been a result of inter-departmental or service rivalry, or just bureaucratic incompetence, but the failure of their superiors to tell F Section officially of these other SOE disasters (although rumours about N and T Sections circulated at Baker Street) may have led Buckmaster and Atkins to be overconfident in the security of their networks and too ready to ignore signals evidence that questioned their trust in the identity of the wireless operator.

Notice should also be taken of the well-organised and skillful counter-espionage work of the Sicherheitsdienst at 84 Avenue Foch in Paris under Hans Josef Kieffer, who built up a deep understanding of how F Section operated in both London and France.

It has been suggested that Vera's diligence in tracing agents still missing at the end of the war was motivated by a sense of guilt at having sent many to deaths that could have been avoided. It is also possible that she felt it her duty to find out what had happened to the men and women, each known personally to her, who had died serving SOE F Section in the most dangerous of circumstances.

In the end, what caused the complete collapse of the Prosper circuit of Francis Suttill and its extensive network of sub-circuits, were not errors in London, but the actions of Henri Dericourt, F Section's air-landing officer in France, who was at the heart of its operations, and who was literally giving SOE's secrets to the Sicherheitsdienst in Paris. What is not completely clear is whether Dericourt was, as is most likely, simply a traitor, or, as he was to claim, working for the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) (unknown to SOE) as part of a complex deception plan in the run-up to D-Day. However, it is beyond doubt that Dericourt was at least a double agent, and that he provided, first his friend, Karl Boemelburg, head of the Sicherheitsdienst in France, and then Kieffer, with large amounts of written evidence and intelligence about F Section's operations and operatives, which ultimately led to the capture, torture and execution of scores of British agents.

The conclusions of M.R.D. Foot in his official history of F Section are that the errors made by Atkins, Buckmaster and other London officers were the products of the 'fog of war', that there were no conspiracies behind these failings, and that few individuals were culpable.

Vera Atkins never admitted to making mistakes, and went to considerable lengths to hide her errors, as in her original identification of Noor Inayat Khan, rather than (then unknown to Atkins) Sonya Olschanezky, as the fourth woman executed at Natzweiler-Struthof on 6 Jul 1944.

After the liberation of France and the allied victory in Europe, Vera went to both France, and later, for just four days, Germany, where she was determined to uncover the fates of the 51 still unaccounted for F Section agents, of the 118 who had disappeared in enemy territory (117 of whom she was to confirm had been murdered in German captivity). Originally she received little support and some opposition in Whitehall, but as the horrors of Nazi atrocities were revealed, and the popular demand for war crimes trials grew, it was decided to give official support for her quest to find out what had happened to the British agents, and to bring those who has perpetrated crimes against them to justice.

At the end of 1945 SOE was wound-up, but in January 1946 Vera, now funded on the establishment of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), arrived in Germany as a newly promoted Squadron Officer in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force to begin her search for the missing agents, including 14 women. She was attached to the war crimes unit of the Judge Advocate-General's department of the British Army HQ at Bad Oeynhausen, which was under the command of Group Captain Tony Somerhaugh.

Until her return to England in October 1946, Atkins searched for the missing SOE agents and other intelligence service personnel who had gone missing behind enemy lines, carried out interrogations of Nazi war crimes suspects, including Rudolf Hoess, ex-commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and testified as a prosecution witness in subsequent trials. In November 1946 her commission was extended so that she could return to Germany to assist the prosecution in the Ravensbrueck Trial which lasted into January 1947. She used this opportunity to complete her search for Noor Inayat Khan, who she now knew had not died at Natzweiler-Struthof, as she had originally concluded in April 1946, but at Dachau.

As well as tracing 117 of the 118 missing F Section SOE agents, Vera established the circumstances of the deaths of all 14 of the women, 12 of whom had been murdered in concentration camps: Andree Borrel, Vera Leigh, Sonya Olschanezky (whom Atkins did not identify until 1947, but knew as the fourth woman to be killed) and Diana Rowden executed at Natzweiler-Struthof by lethal injection on 6 Jul 1944; Yolande Beekman, Madelaine Damerment, Noor Inayat Khan and Eliane Plewman executed at Dachau on 13 Sept 1944; Denise Bloch, Lilian Rolfe and Violette Szabo executed by shooting at Ravensbrueck on 5 Feb 1945; and Cecily Lefort gassed at Ravensbrueck sometime in Feb 1945. Yvonne Rudelat died of Typhus on 23 Apr 1945, 8 days after the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. Muriel Byck had died of meningitis in hospital in Ramorantin, France, on 25 May 1944. 

Vera had also persuaded the War Office that the 12 women, technically regarded as civilians, who had been executed, were not treated as having died in prison, as had been originally intended, but were recorded as Killed in Action. Her efforts in looking for her missing girls meant each now have a place of death. By detailing their bravery before and after capture, Vera also helped to ensure that each (except Sonya Olschanezky, unknown to Atkins until 1947) received official recognition by the British government. To her death, Vera a strong defender of F Section's wartime record, and ensured that each of the 12 women murdered in the three concentration camps of Natzweiler-Struthof, Dachau and Ravensbrueck were commemorated by memorial plaques close to where they were killed. She also supported the memorial at Valençay in the Loire Valley, unveiled in 1991, which is dedicated to the agents of SOE in France killed in the line of duty.

Vera Atkins died in a nursing home in Hastings on 24 June 2000, shortly after contracting MRSA in hospital and breaking her hip.

Madeleine Barclay (1911-1943)

DOSSIER:
Madeleine Victorine Bayard, daughter of (father unknown) and Suzanne Bayard, was born on 21 Feb 1911 in Paris, France and died at sea after the sinking of the HMS Fidelity 1 Jan 1943.

ALSO KNOWN AS:
Madeleine Barclay

Madeleine served on the French merchant vessel Le Rhin. After the fall of France, in 1940, the ship escaped to Britain and was accepted for service with SOE, re-commissioned as HMS Fidelity, with its French crew inducted into the Royal Navy.

She was commissioned into the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) and became a First Officer (equivalent to a Lieutenant commander). After attending the WRNS Officers' Training Course at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich in January 1941, she rejoined her ship on operations for SOE. At the time, it was extremely rare for a "Wren", whether rating or officer, to serve afloat.

In November 1942, the Allies landed in French North Africa and the Germans occupied Vichy France as a precaution. It was no longer appropriate to continue the operations to this part of France. However, a new role was considered for Fidelity in the Far East. Large enough to carry her own torpedo-boats (MTBs) and spotter aircraft, she was ideal as an offshore base to mount Commando operations on Japanese-held coasts in South-East Asia. A company (in reality, more a Troop) of 40(RM) Commando was embarked and Fidelity set off on her new mission, joining a convoy for the dangerous initial part of the voyage through the North Atlantic.

Off the Azores, Fidelity was damaged by an attack from U-615, then sunk by U-435 around 1 Jan 1943. There were reports of survivors of the sinking, but Fidelity had herself been rescuing other survivors and was far behind the convoy. A detached Motor Torpedo Boat reached safety, but otherwise all hands were lost, Including Madeleing

Yvonne Baseden (1922-)

DOSSIER:
Yvonne Jeanne de Vibraye Baseden was born on 20 Jan 1922 in Paris, France. After the war she married and moved to what was then Northern Rhodesia, where her husband worked in the Colonial Service. She remarried in 1966 and took the name Yvonne Burney.

CODE NAMES:
Odette
Mademoiselle Yvonne Bernier

On 4 Sep 1940, Josephine joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) as a General Duties Clerk. She was commissioned in 1941 (later promoted to the rank of Section Officer) and worked in the RAF Intelligence branch, where she assisted in the interrogation of captured airmen and submarine crews. It was through this work that she came to the attention of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). She joined the SOE on 24 May 1943.

One of the youngest SOE women to be dropped by parachute (aged 22), she left from RAF Tempsford airbase near Sandy on the night of 18/19 Mar 1944. Her field name was "Odette". She was parachuted into France with Gonzague Saint Geniès, a French organizer. They were dropped into South West France, close to the village of Gabarret. The local resistance, who were working for George Starr's Wheelwright network, hid them for a few days before she made her own way across France. Her wireless equipment travelled separately to Jura in Eastern France, where Josephine worked for four months as the wireless operator to the Scholar circuit. Her cover story was that she was Mademoiselle Yvonne Bernier, a shorthand typist and secretary.

Following the largest daylight air drop of the war to that date, during a routine search by the Gestapo on 26 Jun 1944, she was trapped in a cheese factory with seven colleagues from the network. Her organizer took a suicide pill immediately, as he was known to the Gestapo. Josephine was found, arrested and taken away for local questioning. At the end of that month, she was moved to the Gestapo Headquarters in Dijon and kept in solitary confinement.

On 25 Aug 1944, she was transferred to a prison in Saarbrücken and then to the Ravensbrück concentration camp on 4 Sept of the same year. While at Ravensbrück, she became ill and was put in the camp hospital where she remained until the liberation of the camp. She was one of 50 women released from Ravensbrück to the Swedish Red Cross. All the women were driven in coaches across Germany and Denmark and then on to Sweden. In Malmö, they were cleaned and deloused. 


Josephine spent her first nights of freedom on a mattress on the floor of the Malmö Museum of Prehistory, sleeping under the skeletons of dinosaurs. She was then flown to Scotland and put on a train to Euston. On her arrival at Euston, there was no one to meet her, so she called the Air Ministry and the duty officer arranged for Vera Atkins take her home to her father at Brockwell Park.

23 November 2013

Yolande Beekman (1911-1944)

DOSSIER:
Yolande Elsa Maria Unternahrer was born to a Swiss family in Paris on 7 Nov 1911. As a child, the family moved to London where she grew up fluent in English, German and French. In 1943 she married Sergeant Jaap Beekman of the Dutch army, but a short time after her marriage she said goodbye to her husband and was flown behind enemy lines in France. She was executed on 13 Sept 1944 at the Dachau concentration camp.

CODE NAMES
Mariette
Yvonne

When WWII broke out, Yolande joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force where she trained as a wireless operator. Because of her language skills and wireless expertise, she was recruited by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) for work in occupied France, officially joining the SOE on 15 Feb 1943. She trained with Noor Inayat Khan and Yvonne Cormeau.

Yolande was landed in France on the night of 17–18 Sept 1943, flown in a Lysander aircraft of 161 (Special Duties) Squadron, Royal Air Force. In France, she operated the wireless for Gustave Biéler, the Canadian in charge of the Musician Network at Saint-Quentin in the département of Aisne, using the codename "Mariette" and the alias "Yvonne". She became an efficient and valued agent who, in addition to her all-important radio transmissions to London, took charge of the distribution of materials dropped by Allied planes. 


On 13 Jan 1944, she and Gustave Biéler were arrested by the Gestapo while meeting at the Café Moulin Brulé. At the Gestapo headquarters in Saint-Quentin the two were tortured repeatedly but never broke. Separated from Biéler (he was later executed), she was transported to Fresnes prison in Paris. Again she was interrogated and brutalized repeatedly. In May 1944 she was moved with several other captured SOE agents to the civilian prison for women at Karlsruhe in Germany, where she encountered a prisoner named Hedwig Müller (a nurse arrested by the Gestapo in 1944). Müller said after the war that Beekman "... didn't leave her cell much as she suffered badly with her legs..." 

She was confined there until September 1944, sharing a cell with Elise Johe (a Jehovah's Witness), Anie Hagen (arrested for working as a black marketeer) and Clara Frank (jailed for slaughtering a cow on her family farm without permission). While imprisoned, Yolande drew and embroidered. She would take a needle and prick her finger to use the blood as ink and draw on toilet paper as there was no paper and pencils.

She was abruptly transferred to Dachau concentration camp with fellow agents Madeleine Damerment, Noor Inayat Khan and Eliane Plewman on 11 Sept 1944. At dawn on 13 September, the day after their arrival in Dachau, the four young women were taken to a small courtyard next to the crematorium and forced to kneel on the ground. They were then executed by a shot through the back of the head and their bodies cremated.

Helen Thormann-Bierer (1884-1972)

DOSSIER:
Helen Anna Agate Thormann was born 2 May 1884. She was the wife of Emanuel Bierer. Both were members of the SOE/French Section. 

FILE UPDATE 11 Mar 2017:
Photo contributed by Sietske Noshie Galama. Sietske stumbled upon this headstone in a little abandoned graveyard in Beirut, Lebanon while walking her dogs. Curious as to how foreigners end up being buried in Beirut, she Googled Helena's name and found my blog.

Since it did not note the year of her death, Sietske was kind enough to let me know that Helena died in Hammana, Lebanon in 1972 ... likely in the Hamlin Hospital which is located next to this graveyard.

Thank you, Sietske, for finding Helena's resting place! To my blogger friends, you will enjoy reading Sietske's blog by clicking HERE.

Denise Bloch (1916-1945)

DOSSIER:
Denise Madeleine Bloch, daughter of Jacques Henri Bloch and Susznne Levi-Strause, was born in Barrault, Paris, France on 21 Jan 1916. She was executed on 5 Feb 1945 at the Ravensbruck concentration camp.

As the Bloch family was Jewish, they were rounded up when France was occupied by the Germans in 1942. 

CODE NAME:
Ambroise

Before the war, Denise was employed at the Citroen automobile manufacturing company. She was secretary to Lieutenant Jean Maxime Aron, who was also a Jewish Resistance leader in France. 

Denise was recruited in Lyon to work for the SOE. She began with radio operator Brian Stonehouse until his arrest near the end of October that year. Following his capture, Denise went into hiding until early 1943 when she was put in touch with SOE agents George Reginald Starr and Philippe de Vomécourt. She began working with them in the town of Agen in the Lot-et-Garonne département in the south of France. However, it was decided to send her to London and. accompanied by another agent, she walked across the Pyrenees mountains making her way to Gibraltar and eventually London. There, SOE trained her as a wireless operator in preparation for a return to France.

On 2 Mar 1944, with fellow SOE agent, Robert Benoist, she was dropped back into central France. Working in the Nantes area, the pair re-established contact with SOE agent and Benoist's fellow race car driver, Jean-Pierre Wimille. However, in June, both she and Benoist were arrested. Denise was interrogated and tortured before being shipped to Germany. She was held in prisons at Torgau in Saxony and at Königsberg in Brandenburg, where she suffered great hardship from exposure, cold and malnutrition.

Eventually shipped to Ravensbrück concentration camp, sometime between 25 Jan - 5 Feb 1945, 29-year-old Denise Madeleine Bloch was executed by the Germans and her body disposed-of in the crematorium. Lilian Rolfe and Violette Szabo, two other female members of the SOE held at Ravensbrück, were executed at about the same time. In May, just days before the German surrender, SOE agent Cecily Lefort was also executed. It is alleged that SS-Sturmbannführer Horst Kopkow was involved in the arrest/killing of these SOE agents.


Denise Bloch's family grave site at the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris memorializes her life and execution.

Margery Booth (1905-1952)

DOSSIER:
Margery Booth, daughter of Levi and Ada Booth, was born in 1905 in Wigan, Lancashire, England. She was an English opera singer who, having married German Dr. Egon Strohm, emigrated to Germany and became a British spy. She met Adolf Hitler and sang at a British prisoner of war camp.

CODE NAMES:
None Known

At the outbreak of World War II the Nazi's mistakenly trusted her, sending her to Freigegeben (Open Prison) Stalag III-D, a camp for potential recruits to the British Free Corps. There she worked with British agent and prisoner John Brown to obtain details of traitors.

On one occasion she sang before Hitler just after a British officer had hidden secret documents in her dress; Hitler subsequently sent her red roses wrapped in a Swastika flag. In early 1944, she was arrested by the Gestapo as a suspected spy, and although tortured, did not reveal any information. Upon her release she made her way west, and was liberated in Germany by the advancing US Army.

After the war, information she provided was used to convict both Lord Haw Haw and John Amery, both of whom were hanged for treason. She then returned to London, but was professionally rejected as producers mistakenly concluded that she had been a Nazi, and was offered no work. Emigrating again to New York, on arrival she was referred to a doctor who diagnosed her with terminal cancer. She died in obscurity in New York from complications of cancer in 1952.



Andree Borrell (1919-1944)

DOSSIER:
Andree Raymonde Borrel was born on 18 Nov 1919 in Louveciennes, Yvelines, France. She was executed at the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp on 6 Jul 1944.

CODE NAMES:
Agent Prosper
Denise

When World War II broke out, nineteen-year-old Andree went to the Mediterranean port city of Toulon where she trained as a nurse's aid with the "Association des Dames de France" (ADF). Following her training, she worked in Beaucaire treating wounded soldiers. After France fell to the Germans in June 1940, the ADF came under the control of Marshal Pétain, and Andree, who was not willing to accept her country's defeat, joined the French Resistance helping British airmen shot down over France to escape through the "underground railway" back to Britain.

With Maurice Dufour, she established a villa in Perpignan near the Spanish border and co-operated with the escape network of Albert Guérisse.

In December 1941 her resistance group was uncovered and she fled to Lisbon, Portugal. There, she worked at the Free French Propaganda Office for a short time until April 1942 when she travelled to London. From General de Gaulle's Free French bureau she learned about the French Section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and immediately signed up.

On the night of 24 Sept 1942, Andree and fellow SOE agent, Lise de Baissac (Odile)became the first female agents to be parachuted into occupied France. They were flown in from RAF Tempsford. Andree dropped first. In the darkness, Baissac dropped near Poitiers while Andree dropped into a field near the village of Mer, not far from the Loire River and was picked up by members of a local resistance team.

Because of her intimate knowledge of Paris, Andree was sent there to work as a courier for the new Prosper network run by Francis Suttill. She made contact in Paris with Germaine and Madeleine Tambour. Suttill was impressed with her performance and in the spring of 1943 she was made second in command of the Paris network. While working in the Prosper network she took part in sabotage, especially raiding a power station, and supervising weapons drops.

Probably because of a traitor, in June 1943 several members of the Prosper network were arrested by the Gestapo on 23 Jun 1943, including network leader Francis Suttill and Andrée. She was interrogated in the Gestapo's Paris headquarters and then held in Fresnes prison. She remained there until May 1944 when, together with three other captured female SOE agents (Vera Leigh, Sonya Olschanezky and Diana Rowden), she was shipped to the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in the Vosges Mountains of Alsace.

On 6 Jul 1944, 24-year-old Andree and her three compatriots were given lethal injections of phenol, then incinerated in the camp's crematorium. Evidence collected immediately after the war by Squadron Officer Vera Atkins and Major Bill Barkworth of the SAS War Crimes investigation team (included in the Justice - SAS Style program in the television series Nazi Hunters), indicates that Andree regained consciousness before being placed in the cremation oven and fought to save her life, facially scarring the camp executioner who was placing her in the oven. However, she was unable to escape and was put into the flames while still alive. Both the doctor who administered the injection and the camp executioner were later executed by the Allies for war crimes.

In 1985, SOE agent and painter Brian Stonehouse, who saw Andree Borrel and the three other female SOE agents at the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp just before their deaths, painted a poignant watercolor of the four women which now hangs in the Special Forces Clubin London, England.

Sonya Butt (1924-)

DOSSIER:
Sonya Esmee Florence Butt was born on 14 May 1924 in Kent, England. When the war broke out in 1939, she was 15 years one and living in Woking, England.

She left the service without signing off to marry Guy d'Artois, who had parachuted into a district of France about the same time as Sonya. After the war, they went to live in Canada. They had six children: Robert, Michel, Guy, Nadya, Christina and Lorraine.

After Guy died in 1999, Sonya went by the name of Toni D'Artois.

CODE NAME:
Blanche

Sonya was only a schoolgirl at the start of the War, and would not be due to join up for at least a couple of years. Her preference was for the WAAF, as her father had served in the RAF himself, but in order to join the WAAF, a girl had to be a minimum of 17½ years old. She joined up the moment she became eligible, on 14 Nov 1941, becoming Aircraftwoman (ACW) Butt. She served in the Administrative Branch.

The girl whose quest for adventure made her join up at the age of 17 was probably not going to be stimulated by filing paperwork, but in 1941 women were banned from front-line service. In April 1942, this provision was changed and one of the first organisations to take advantage of this was the Special Operations Executive (SOE). SOE trained teams to operate behind the lines in countries under Nazi occupation. The role of courier was particularly important, as movements around a district were likely to encounter German check-points and a male of military or working age attracted adverse attention; a woman on a bicycle, however, was not suspect and if she attracted attention at all, it was usually the sort that makes a besotted sentry forget to check papers & luggage properly. 


SOE began to look for potential female couriers, but the work was highly dangerous and only the toughest in mind and body could perform successfully under such pressure, so they had to be very demanding, very selective and very secretive. It did not advertise its vacancies and recruited by 'the usual methods': word of mouth, and other quiet and roundabout means; a skill in the appropriate language was a good starting-point. While working at RAF Gosforth (alongside another future SOE Agent Patricia O'Sullivan) Sonya had been advertising her fluency in French in an attempt to get attached to the free French squadrons and escape her dreary routine. She failed in this bid but her attempts did bring her to the attention of SOE and she was soon accepted for training. She was given an honorary commission as an Assistant Section Officer.

Sonya joined SOE on 11 Dec 1943 and in less than six months she was in France. Her training followed the usual program of tough outdoor training, to develop stamina and basic soldiering skills, followed by specialist training according to the role on operations, plus familiarization with the routine of life in occupied Europe. Recruits could not discuss their training with outsiders, and in any case, this sort of training was unheard of for women. So, at the time, few would understand or even believe the full details of the armed and unarmed combat training the girls received. Only fellow students could give meaningful support and Sonya's colleagues included Nancy Wake and Violette Szabo and also a certain French Canadian Officer Captain Guy D'Artois, whom she would later marry.

On 28 May 1944, Sonya was parachuted into the department of the Sarthe in the area of Le Mans to work as a Courier, under the code name "Blanche". She was courier to Christopher Hudson, organizer of the Reseau circuit Headmaster. She was one of the last WAAFs landed in France before the Allied invasion, only nine days before D-Day. 

After one of the other agents dropped with her was shot during a battle between the maquis and the Germans, Sonya took on the additional role of Weapons Instructor. She later said modestly: "I filled in wherever the need arose." As a courier, her primary roles were to carry money, pass messages and maintain liaison with all of the SOE Agents, maquis and local operatives working with the circuit.

In June 1944, whilst communicating messages around the countryside, she was stopped by two Germans and detained for questioning. This was a very dangerous moment but her cover story and false papers withstood the examination and she was eventually released. In due course the Allied ground forces broke out from Normandy and Sonya's district was liberated. In October 1944, she returned to England on the successful completion of her mission.


Obituary Links:
The Globe & Mail
The Guardian
Montreal Gazette
The Telegraph

Muriel Byck (1918-1944)

DOSSIER:
Muriel Byck, daughter of Jacques Byck and Luba Besia Golinska, was born on 4 Jun 1918 in Ealing, London, England.

CODE NAMES:

Michele
Violette

Her SOE file revealed that from 1923-24 she had lived with her family in Wiesbaden, Germany. The family must have moved to France in 1926 as she went to school at the Lycee de Jeunes Filles, St Germain, France, before moving to England in 1930.

Muriel worked as a secretary from 1936-38 in London before becoming an Assistant Stage Manager at the Gate Theatre in 1937. At the outbreak of war, she joined the Red Cross as a voluntary worker and the WVS. She moved to Torquay in 1941 where she worked as National Registration Clerk and was also an ARP Warden.

She joined the WAAF in December 1942 as a General Duties clerk, working in the records office where she was later promoted to the rank of Section officer. As she spoke excellent French, she was recruited into the SOE in July 1943. She began initial training in September 1943 at Winterfold House, Cranleigh, in Surrey. From there she proceeded to para-military training at Meoble Lodge, Morar, Invernesshire until October and wireless operator training at Thame Park, Oxfordshire in November and December 1943. She was chosen by Major Philippe de Vomécourt to be his assistant.

Muriel was graded 'average' as a General Agent by her SOE instructors, but gained a high intelligence rating (eight out of nine), and high grades for Morse and Mechanical Aptitude. She was described by her instructors on her SOE file as: a quiet, bright, attractive girl, keen, enthusiastic and intelligent. Alert but not very practical and as yet lacks foresight and thoroughness. She is, however, self-possessed, independent and persistent, and warm in her feelings for others... a girl of considerable promise who will require much training to help her to overcome her lack of experience, her complete ignorance of what the work really involves and her general guilelessness. Her temperament would appear to be suitable for work as a courier, or possibly propaganda.

After three aborted attempts to fly from Tempsford airfield, she parachuted into France on the night of 8/9 Apr 1944 with three other SOE agents: Captain Stanisław Makowski, Captain C.S. Hudson (who was her CO until de Vomecourt arrived by plane) and Captain G.D. Jones. Given the code name Violette, she worked on the SOE Ventriloquist circuit as the wireless operator and trained any wireless operators recruited locally, informing London with the details about these new recruits so they could be given code names and status. She was additionally tasked with establishing post-boxes for contact should wireless transmission break down.

Muriel lodged at a safe house in the town of Salbris owned by French Resistant Antoine Vincent. She sent her transmissions back to England from a shed behind a garage in Limoges where German trucks and cars came in for repairs. While at this location, she aroused the suspicion of a German soldier, but by the time the local Gestapo returned she had moved to a new location. She changed her cover story, posing as a Parisian secretary on sick leave. To disguise her night time activities sending messages though to London, she said she had to take medicine every few hours even at night. She later moved to the home of a blacksmith in Vernou.

As she worked extremely hard sending her transmissions, paleness and fatigue were expected. However, after she collapsed at the blacksmith's house and lost consciousness, it was decided she required urgent medical attention. De Vomécourt took her to a Doctor known to the Resistance as safe; he diagnosed meningitis and told them that hospitalization was her only chance. This posed a problem as the Germans kept a check on hospital admissions and scrutinized the papers of all people entering. It was decided that the cover story was Muriel and de Vomécourt (as her uncle) were evacuees from Paris. She was admitted to Romorantin Hospital which was run by nuns. and given a lumbar puncture. But very shortly afterwards she died on 23 May 1944.

She was buried in Romorantin and for many years her grave was tended by the local people. The townsfolk of Romorantin commemorated the Anniversary of her death as a heroine of the Resistance. Later, her grave was moved to the Pornic War Cemetery, France with the other dead from the British services.

22 November 2013

Mathilde Carre (1909-1970)

DOSSIER:
Mathilde Carre was born in Le Creusot, Saone-et-Loire on 30 Jun 1908. After her marriage to Maurice Carre, she moved to Algeria. Maurice was later killed during the campaign of Italy. She returned to France, worked as a nurse and witnessed the country fall to the Germans. 

CODE NAMES:
Victoire
La Chatte (the She-Cat)

In 1940, she met a Polish Air Force Captain named Roman Czerniawski (code name Walenty to the Poles and Armand or Victor to the French). Mathilde, who had contacts with the Vichy Second Bureau, joined the headquarters section of his Franco-Polish Interallié espionage network based in Paris under the code name "Victoire". (All the headquarters section staff had "V" initial names, in a network that named its agents and their sectors or areas of coverage for Christian names grouped by the letters of the alphabet). She was nicknamed La Chatte, ("The She-cat") for her feline predatory and stealthy propensities.

On 17 Nov 1941, the Abwehr's Hugo Bleicher arrested Czerniawski, Mathilde and many other members of Interallié. They had been uncovered when an informant in Normandy exposed them to the Gestapo. She was interrogated by Bleicher, threatened with death and offered financial reward. Mathilde agreed to become a double agent herself and revealed all of the members of the network known to her. She began working for the Germans, continuing to use the code name Victoire and may also have become Bleicher's mistress.

According to Pierre de Vomécourt, an agent of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), he and a Resistance contact began to suspect her. When he confronted Mathilde, who had become his mistress, she confessed and together they planned to outwit the Abwehr.

She claimed she convinced Bleicher, and through him his superiors, to send her to London to infiltrate the SOE. In February 1942, she was exfiltrated to London with de Vomécourt. MI5 interrogated her about Abwehr techniques and played back her radio link for a period until her usefulness was exhausted, whereupon she was arrested. She was first taken to HM Prison Holloway and then to HM Prison Aylesbury for the rest of the war. There she acted as an informant against other detainees.

After the war Mathilde was deported to France where she faced charges for treason. At the trial, which started on 3 Jan 1949, the prosecution read from her diary: "What I wanted most was a good meal, a man, and, once more, Mozart's Requiem." Despite being defended by her wartime commander, Paul Archard, she was sentenced to death on 7 Jan 1949. Three months later, the sentence was commuted to 20 years in jail.

Mathilde Carré was released in September 1954. She published an account of her life in J'ai été La Chatte (1959); revised in 1975 as On m'appelait la Chatte (I Was Called The Cat), in which she denied many claims that had been made about her and her activities during the war. She soon fell out of public view. Mathilde Carré died in 1970 in Paris.

Blanche Charlet (1898-1985)

DOSSIER:
Valentine Blanche Charlet was born on 23 May 1898 in Westminster, England. She died in 1985 at Camden, England.

CODE NAMES:
Agent Japonica
Ventriloquist

Blanche took over the work carried out by fellow SOE agent Virginia Hall and worked with Brian Stonehouse. She arrived by felucca on 1 Sept 1942.

On 24 Oct 1942 German D/F (detector) vans picked up Stonehouse's radio signals while he was transmitting to London. They tracked him down to his safe house and arrested him. Before the Germans left, Blanche arrived for a pre-arranged meeting with Stonehouse and she too was arrested by the Milice in Chateau Hurlevent near Lyon, 69.

She was interned in Castres Prison for her SOE activities in November 1942. In September 1943 she found a sympathetic wardress and got hold of pistols and spare keys and took part in a mass break-out with French resistance fighter, Suzanne Charisse. Blanche and Suzanne reached open country and, helped by a local farmer, took refuge in a Benedictine monastery. There they sheltered in a guest house for two months before the monks took them to the escape line in the Pyrénées, but as it was winter heavy snow stopped them from crossing to Spain.

In April 1944 a message from Blanche reached the SOE Headquarters in Baker Street and a pick-up was arranged from Brittany. From there she crossed the channel back to Britain.

Beatrice "Yvonne" Cormeau (1909-1997)

DOSSIER:
Beatrice Yvonne Biesterfeld, daughter of a Belgian consular official, was born on 18 Dec 1908 in Shanghai, China. She was living in London when, in 1937, she married Charles Edouard Emile Cormeau with whom she had their daughter, Yvette. Charles enlisted in The Rifles and, after being wounded in France, was sent back to the UK. Shortly afterwards he was killed when their London home was bombed. Amazingly, Yvonne's life was saved by a bath that fell over her head and protected her.

CODE NAMES:
Annette
Fairy
Sarafari

Newly widowed, Yvonne decided to take her husband's place in the Armed Forces and joined the WAAF as an administrator in November 1941.  While serving at RAF Swinderby she answered an appeal on the noticeboard for linguists, was recruited by SOE and trained as an F Section wireless operator on 15 Feb 1943. She was promoted to the rank of Flight Officer. Yvette was only two years old at the time and was placed in a convent of Ursine nuns in Oxfordshire where she remained until she was five. 

Yvonne did her SOE training with Yolande Beekman, Cecily Lefort and Noor Inayat Khan. On the night of 22 Aug 1943 she left Tempsford airbase and was parachuted into St Antoine du Queyret, northeast of Bordeaux. She was given a powder compact by Colonel Maurice Buckmaster before leaving for France. Her role was to work as courier and wireless operator in the Wheelwright circuit with George Starr. Whilst carrying out her secret operations in Occupied France she used the code names "Annette", "Fairy" and "Sarafari".

Yvonne was almost arrested by the Germans after being betrayed by an agent (code named Rodolph). However, she continued to operate, despite being confronted by wanted posters in her neighborhood which gave an accurate sketch of her appearance. Her success was possibly owed to the fact that she used car batteries rather than mains power, making it more difficult for the German D/F vans to find her.

Famously, Cormeau and Starr was stopped at a German road block and questioned while a gun was held in their backs. Eventually the Germans accepted her story and I.D. that she was a district nurse, and she succeeded in passing her wireless equipment off as an X-ray machine.

She sent over 400 transmissions back to London, which was a record for the F Section, and made arrangements for arms and supplies to be dropped for the local maquis. She also assisted in the cutting of the power and telephone lines, resulting in the isolation of the Wehrmacht Group G garrison near Toulouse.

She worked for 13 months and evaded arrest despite some narrow escapes. While operating in France Yvonne was shot in the leg by a German patrol, but managed to escape. (The dress she wore on this occasion and the bloodstained briefcase she carried are on permanent display in the Imperial War Museum in London.)

After the war, Yvonne and her daughter were reunited and lived in London, where she remarried to James Edgar Farrow. She spent her later years in Fleet, Hampshire, England at the Tall Pines nursing home where she died on 25 Dec 1997.

21 November 2013

Madeleine Damerment (1917-1944)

DOSSIER:
Madeleine Damerment was born on 11 Nov 1917 in Lille, France. She was executed at the Dachau concentration camp on 13 Sept 1944.

CODE NAMES:

Agent Bricklayer
Solange


Following the occupation of France by the Germans in World War II, Madeleine's family became actively involved with the French Resistance. The unassuming twenty-two-year-old Madeleine worked as an assistant to Michael Trotobas on the escape line set up by Albert Guérisse. She helped downed British airmen and others to escape France until 1942, when it is believed that one of her fellow resistance workers, Harold Cole, betrayed the group and she had to flee to England.

Once in England, she volunteered to work with the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Trained to be a courier for the Bricklayer network, on the night of 28 Feb 1944, she and agents France Antelme and Lionel Lee were parachuted into a field near the city of Chartres in France. However, they had been betrayed and the waiting Gestapo arrested them on landing. 
Dachau Crematorium

Shipped to Gestapo headquarters on the Avenue Foch in Paris, Madeleine was subjected to examination and torture. On 12 May 1944 she was sent with several other captured SOE agents to the civilian prison for women at Karlsruhe in Germany. She was held there under horrific conditions until 11 September when she was abruptly transferred to Dachau concentration camp with fellow agents Eliane Plewman, Yolande Beekman and Noor Inayat Khan.

At dawn on 13 Sept 1944, the day after their arrival in Dachau, the four young women were taken to a small courtyard next to the crematorium and forced to kneel on the ground. They were then executed by a shot through the back of the head and their bodies cremated.