SOE Archives

(Please note that there are some entries which have struck out from the original records - they appear nonetheless in this document in that form)

   First Steps by SOE to start Operations in France
5 May 1941 The whole British organization in France started on 5 May 1941 with the dropping by parachute at VALENCAY near CHATEAUROUX of Capt (later Commandant) Georges BEGUE, better known throughout his long career as George Noble. He landed not far from the estate of M. Max HYMANS (Frederick) who was a former Under Secretary of State (see TINKER and DONKEYMAN Circuits). BEGUE was a first class W/T operator. His mission was a difficult one. In addition to being the first man to be parachuted by F section of SOE he was to act as linch-pin to the whole organization which the British were trying at this time to set up in France. The Free French organization in LONDON had not yet got on its feet.

His intructions were to establish himself inconspicuously in or near CHATEAUROUX and to send back over his wireless set as soon as possible to LONDON a contact address to which messages could be sent by other organizers standing by in England to leave for the field.

It is impressive to consider the slender foundation on which was built the system which on D-day (6 June 1944) went into action with such effect.

Arriving in the small hours of 6 May BEGUE was taken by Max HYMANS into CHATEAUROUX on the 8 May where he recruited his "letter-box" the same evening. It was the chemist M. RENAN, of 54 rue des Marins. Later it changed to M. FLEURET, garagiste at 68 rue de la Couture.

9 May 1941

Only four days after leaving LONDON BEGUE had communicated the safe address to LONDON by his radio set, thus forging the first link. Until his arrest in Oct 1941 all SOE wireless traffic with agents in the Occupied and Unoccupied Zones passed through this one channel.

10,11 May 1941

(Parachuted) Baron Pierre de VOMECOURT (Etienne, Lucas, Sylvain) dropped at CHATEAUROUX (see AUTOGIRO Circuit), with Lieut Louis LEFROU de la COLONGE (Bernard).

12,13 May 1941

(Parachuted) Lieut Roger COTTON-BURNETT (Albert) a Canadian, also know as COTTIN (see AUTOGIRO Circuit) was dropped with instructions to set up an organization in Brittany. He started working in SARTHE, but in August he met Pierre de Vomecourt in Paris and worked with him until his arrest. COTTON-BURNETT returned from a German prison camp in May 1945.


BEGUE (NOBLE) contacted Pierre de Vomecourt and Philippe de Vomecourt (Lionel, Antoine, Gautier). Lieut R. COTTIN (COTTON-BURNETT, Albert) got in touch with BEGUE from Brittany (see AUTOGIRO Circuit). As a result of these contacts, W/T traffic soared. BEGUE himself transmitted 98 W/T messages in six months. But the distinction of being the only clandestine radio in France had its dangers. Radio detection soon established the existence of the transmitter and the hunt for the "Radio de CHATEAUROUX" became a prime objective. BEGUE, being aware of this, took the usual precautions, but little by little the net closed in. FLEURET was arrested and it became evident that continued operation in CHATEAUROUX was becoming impossible. BEGUE transferred his set for a while, to Mmme SEVENET (mother of Henri [see DETECTIVE Circuit]) at the Chateau DUBREUIL near LOCHES. Radio detection cars were already in the vicinity when BEGUE left for MARSEILLES to contact Capt TURCK (Christophe) (see below).

13 June 1941

(Parachuted - 1st stores delivery) In mid June took place the first stores parachuting operation to France. It was arranged by Capt BEGUE (George Noble) for delivery to Philippe de VOMECOURT. This operation was a landmark, both on its own account and because BEGUE found that communication between himself sitting at his W/T set and Philippe de VOMECOURT far away in the field awaiting the aircraft, was too slow and resulted in Philippe de VOMECOURT spending two nights uselessly in the open air, when LONDON had already sent a message to say that the aircraft could not fly owing to bad weather. This led BEGUE in his next message to suggest the use of BBC messages to notify teams on the ground of impending operations. Thus was born the system of BBC warning messages which became routine practice and meant so much to the teams in the field during the war. The very first message so passed was "Lizette va vien" at the end of Sept 1941.

9 July 1941

(Parachuted) Capt Noel Fernand Raoul BURDEYRON (Gaston) (real name Norman F. BURLEY) dropped near MORTAIN as an organizer in the CAEN-AVRANCHES area after five attempts to land him by boat had proved unsuccessful. [See AUTOGIRO Circuit.] He was accompanied by Lieut Ernest Paul BERNARD (Jean, Ernest). BERNARD was arrested by the French police on arrival owing to a social offence committed before his escape to England. He remained in prison until 4 March 1945.

6 August 1941

(Parachuted blind) Capt (later Major) Jacques Vaillant de GUELIS (Jacques) and Capt G.C.G. TURCK (Christophe, Tunmer) were dropped blind and a long way from the place chosen for their descent. Capt de GUELIS dropped in rough ground but, although severely cut and bruised was not gravely injured. Capt TURCK dropped into a quarry and was knocked out. de GUELIS failed to locate him. TURCK was picked up, apparently still unconscious, by the VICHY police. The next thing LONDON heard about him was that TURCK had installed himself - or been installed - in the Villa des Bois near Marseilles where he was working apparently in harmonious relations with the Vichy authorities. In fact, this was untrue; he escaped to Paris in October and sought to establish a transport company, useful for resistance.

NOTE: TURCK was arrested by the Germans on 7 July 1942 and interned in BUCHENWALD from 26.1.44 to 5.4.45 whereafter he returned to the UK.

Capt de GUELIS's mission was to investigate the affairs of circuits in the Unoccupied Zone, make recommendations for their further development, arrange for the infiltration of agents by sea on the South Coast to obtain identity and other documents for copying, do some recruiting on his own account and return to LONDON approximately a month later. He carried out this mission with distinction, had meetings with Georges BEGUE, with Pierre de VOMECOURT from the Occupied and with Philippe de VOMECOURT and with a number of leaders of the indigenous Resistance movements, which were beginning to crystallize. He also recruited three men who were later on to play a considerable part, viz Philippe LIEWER (see SALESMAN Circuit): Francis GAREL (better known as BOUGUENNEC) who built up a circuit in BRITTANY (see BUTLER Circuit) and Robert LYON (Adrian) who was active in the final liberation of the region ROANNE (see ACOLYTE Circuit).

23 August 1941

(1st Lysander Infiltration and Exfiltration): This aircraft brought out to France, landing at CHAMPENOISE, Major Gerard Henri (Gerry) MOREL (Gerard) who had reached England from Brazil in April 1941 and had been commissioned; and took back to England Capt de GUELIS. His departure was not without drama. He had installed himself conveniently in a hotel near the selected landing ground when, on the night of the operation the police arrived and proceeded to check the papers of everyone there. None could leave until the process was complete. De GUELIS saw the precious minutes fleeting away while preserving an impression of complete calm. As soon as the police had departed, he leapt on his bicycle and began a mad rush through the night, arriving near the ground just as the noise of the approaching aircraft's engine was beginning to be heard. Rapidly laying out his lights, he guided the aircraft in and was soon on his way to LONDON where he presented an extremely valuable report. Incidently, in the rush he laid his lights on the wrong ground and the aircraft, in taking off, fouled some telephone wires, several yards of which were found trailing from it on arrival in England. [For Capt de GUELIS's second mission see TILLEUL Mission.]

Major Gerry MOREL's mission to contact Resistance leaders with a view to future action and to reconnoitre dropping grounds proved unsuccessful. Denounced, probably by one of the people he had been sent to contact, he was arrested on 14 Nov 1941 at LIMOGES by the French Police and imprisoned in solitary confinement for weeks. Together with Lieut George LANGELAAN (Marcel) who was arrested on 6 Oct, and FLEURET, the garage owner of CHATEAUROUX, MOREL was transferred to the prison in PERIGUEUX where he purposely made himself extremely ill. Taken to hospital he was operated on for subtotal gastrictomy.

5 Feb 1942 But 18 days later, just after the stitches had been removed from his wound, he escaped at dead of night with the aid of a Sister of Mercy who had nursed him whilst the policeman on guard was asleep. He had to climb over the prison wall and walk in a snowstorm to a safe house provided by his friend Philippe de VOMECOURT. After a period of convalescence MOREL was taken to LYONS on 2 March 1942, from where Virginia HALL (Marie) escorted him via MARSEILLES to TOULOUSE.

6 March 1942 MOREL left for TOULOUSE, Hotel de Paris, Place du Capitole, where he contacted the guides who took him via NARBONNE, BANYULS and VILLAJUIGA, to BARCELONA. The party that crossed the Pyrenees consisted of six men and two women.

11/20 March 1942 MOREL arrived in MADRID on the 11th; in Gibraltar on the 16th and in LONDON on 20 March 1942.

NOTE: In Sept 1943 Major MOREL volunteered to go on operation flights to France for conversations between aircraft and organizations on the ground by B-phone equipment. In Sept 1944 MOREL was sent by E.M.F.F.I. on the Etoile Mission to the triangle St.CLAUDE-DIJON-BELFORT to coordinate the circuits in that area and the Jed teams Cedric, Brian, Norman and Basil. Major MOREL returned to LONDON in mid Oct 1944.

6 September 1941

(Parachuted): Major B.H. COWBURN (Benoit) [see TINKER Circuit], Lieut A.G. Bloch (George IX) W/T operator [see AUTOGIRO Circuit], Lieut Comte Jean Paul Marie DU PUY (Denis or Camille) and Haim Victor GERSON (Rene) were dropped near CHATEAUROUX. They were received by a reception committee organized by George NOBLE and Max HYMANS.

NOTE: Lieut DU PUY crossed the demarcation line and went to his father's home at COURLEON. On the 13 May 1942 he was arrested by the Germans, interned in FRESNES and thereafter taken to COLDITZ. He was released in May 1945.

Lieut Haim Victor GERSON decided later - when a whole wave of arrests took place - to return to England via Spain and Gibraltar. He reached England aboard a destroyer on 6 Jan 1942.

19 September 1941 By sea via Gibraltar: Lieut Francois BASIN (Olive) together with Lieut Robert LEROY (Louis), Lieut Bruce CADOGAN (real name Raymond ROCHE) and Jean Georges DUBOUDIN (Jean) landed at BARCARES from HMS "Fidelity". Lieut LEROY's task was to organize a group in BORDEAUX. He first worked as a tractor driver for the TODT organization was subsequently on ship repairs in the docks. When he returned to England in May 1942 he brought back valuable intelligence. He had established contacts which later proved useful to the SCIENTIST Circuit.
NOTE: In June 1942 he returned to Bordeaux to organize resistance amongst the dockers. He was recalled to the UK in June 1943.
20 September 1941

Lieut F. BASIN was arrested by the French police in CANNES on the morning after arrival at the Hotel Bourgogne, but, by pretending that he had just been repatriated with members of the French armistice mission, he succeeded in obtaining his release and genuine papers. His instructions were: (1) to act as technical adviser to Dr. LEVY in ANTIBES, who was already active in Resistance in that area; (2) to build up resistance in South East France.

Dr. Levy introduced BASIN to the Heads of the Resistance Movements including CARTE (Andre GIRARD) and many influential people who proved useful later. But LEVY's circle of acquaintances, as a leading member of "Liberation", "Combat" and the Communist Party, seemed to BASIN imprudently wide; so he slowly disengaged himself for security reasons, and established, from November onwards, successful lines of communication through Switzerland and through LYONS.

6 October 1941

LANGELAAN was arrested at the Cafe du Faisan at CHATEAUROUX where he was to meet Commandant BEGUE (George NOBLE).

10 October 1941

Parachuted - Hayes' 1st Mission (for 2nd Mission see SCULLION): Capt Jack Beresford HAYES (Eric), Capt Clement Marc Jumeau (Robert, Reporter), Lieut Jean Philippe Charles LE HARIVEL (Hiccup) were dropped near BERGERAC on the estate of a friend (unnamed) to a reception committee. Owing to faulty signal lights the plane had circled over the dropping ground at low altitude for half an hour; the whole district had thereby been alerted. Lieut Daniel TURBERVILLE (Diviner) dropped six miles north of the reception committee with the containers. This team, known as the CORSICAN Mission was to act as instructors for "sabotage insaisisable" in the Z.N.O.

11 October 1941

The police arrested TURBERVILLE and discovered the containers. He was imprisoned in PERIGUEUX but escaped during his transfer by train to LYONS. He returned to England via Spain on 28.4.43.

The other group found refuge with Albert RIGOULET (also known as "Le Frisť") a farmer at ST.JEAN d'EYRAUD whose security arrangements were perfect and who kept the officers informed of events in the district. When the excitement in BERGERAC had died down the party decided to proceed to their posts.

15 October 1941

HAYES and JUMEAU were taken by Albert RIGOULET to BERGERAC from where they proceeded to MARSEILLES. LE HARIVEL was to follow one day later.

16 October 1941

In MARSEILLES they contacted Robert LYON and Jean BARDANNE. JUMEAU explained to the latter the purpose of his mission.

17 October 1941

After spending the night at 102 Promenade de la Corniche JUMEAU visited Mmme Anne MANSON for whom he had a message. She informed him that news had been received of the first arrest of BOUGUENNEC at CHATEAUROUX.

Against Mmme Manson's advice JUMEAU suggested informing Capt G.C.G TURCK (Christophe, Tunmer) and asking him to help rescue BOUGUENNEC (F. GAREL). He proceeded to the Villa des Bois. But instead of finding Capt TURCK he was confronted by three inspectors of the Surveillance du Territoire who arrested him.

After JUMEAU's arrest Capt HAYES was sent by BARDANNE to the Hotel des Palmiers at St.MAXIME. He had tried in vain to contact Le HARIVEL by meeting trains at MARSEILLES and patrolling the CANBIERE. As transpired later LE HARIVEL had been arrested by the Vichy police at the Villa des Bois on 19 Oct (no details as to the circumstances are available).

19 October 1941

After a week's stay in ST.MAXIME HAYES returned to MARSEILLES where he was informed by Capt Robert LYON (ACOLYTE) that a meeting with Capt TURCK had been arranged at the Restaurent Mon VENTOUX for the next day.

20 October 1941

On arriving at thsis rendezvous Capt HAYES was arrested by the Vichy police. The MARSEILLES police using Capt TURCK's Villa des Bois as a trap made an almost clean sweep of the British organizers in the Unoccupied Zone. There followed in quick succession wholesale arrests of about a dozen British agents including Capt Robert LYON, who was taken on 23 Oct.

The following were the principal victims:

  1. Capt Georges BEGUE (NOBLE)
  2. Lieut Clement JUMEAU (Br) travelling to MARSEILLES, to act as technical adviser to BARDANNE
  3. Lieut Jean Philippe LE HARIVEL (Br) on his way to LYONS as W/T operator
  4. Pierre Bloch (Fr) (Socialist Deputy and Reception Committee organizer to receiver Lieut JUMEAU, Lieut TURBERVILLE and Lieut HAYES)
  5. Lieut Jack Hayes (Br) travelling to the Dordogne to act as technical adviser to Pierre BLOCH
  6. Lieut Bruce CADOGAN (Fr) (real name Raymond ROCHE) travelling to the LANDES on a sabotage mission.

Apart from the above the police arrested also:

Lieut Daniel TURBERVILLE (Br) travelling to ANTIBES to act as assistant there. He was caught owing to a bad parachute drop. (See CORSICAN Circuit.)
Lieut Michael TROTOBAS (Br) on his way to MARSEILLES, arrested in CHATEAUROUX during an identity card check-up.
Francis GAREL (Fr) (real name BOUGUENNEC) a local recruit by de GUELIS and arrested in ANTIBES as a result of the arrest of LANGELAAN.
Marcel FLEURET (Fr), BEGUE's contact in CHATEAUROUX, whose name was found on an arrested agent

All these prisoners were accused of "complot contre la surete exterieure de l'Etat", and incarcerated in the BELEYME prison in PERIGUEUX.

28 October 1941

M. Jean BARDANNE used all his influence to obtain JUMEAU's release but to no avail. He himself was later arrested but released a few months later.

15 March 1942

On this day they were transferred to the prison camp in MAUZAC (15 miles East of BERGERAC) thanks to an intervention of the US Embassy in VICHY. Commandant BEGUE and Lieut JUMEAU, together with a Gaullist officer named GALEB, were entrusted with organizing the escape.

10 June 1942

STAUNTON's lawyer M.A. GOEAU BRISSONNIERE (Hugo Reneliere) and M. RACHELINE (Lucien) arranged for the bribing of some guards and the date for the escape was fixed a the new moon period between 8 and 15 July.

It was largely due to the untiring devotion of Madame BLOCH, wife of M. Pierre BLOCH (Socialist Deputy and Reception Committee organizer) who, at great risk to herself kept the prisoners provided with extra food purchased on the Black Market that these officers' fate was made at all supportable.

16 July 1942

All the above-named prisoners escaped at 3:00 a.m., on 16 July in accordance with well-laid plans worked out inside the prison by Capt Georges Begue and from outside by Mme BLOCH. The escapees were taken in a van provided by RIGOULET (Le Frisť) to a provisional hide-out 30 miles away in the middle of a forest, where they stayed a week until false papers arrived. RIGOULET also provided clothing and food until 23 July when they left in groups of two for LYONS.

8 August 1942

It having been decided that two groups were to attempt to cross into Spain, the first group left LYONS on 8.8.42. This included: JUMEAU, HAYES, LE HARIVEL, ROCHE, F. GAREL (BOUGUENNEC), BEGUE and Pierre BLOCH. They were caught in the train at FIGUERAS and interned at MIRANDA, but reached England in due course.

28 August 1942

STAUNTON (LIEWER) and TROTOBAS received instructions to follow the guide they would find at ANGELOS (at the foot of the Pyrenees).

1 September 1942

This they did, reaching BARCELONA by train without mishap from where they were sent by diplomatic car to MADRID.

10 September 1942

They left MADRID for Portugal but were kept in prison while though being very well treated.

18 September 1942

Finally on 16 Sept they left by plane for England which they reached on17 Sept.

NOTE: For TROTOBAS' second mission see FARMER Circuit (sheet 21)
For STAUNTON's (LIEWER's) second mission see SALESMAN Circuit (22)
For Capt HAYES' see also CARVER and SCIENTIST Circuits (54 & 18)
For Lieut TURBERVILLE see also ACOLYTE Circuit (57)
For M. Francois GAREL (BOUGUENNEC) see BUTLER Circuit (37)
Capt Jumeau volunteered for a second mission on 12 April 1943. His aircraft was shot down and after capture he was imprisoned in Germany where he died on 26.3.44 from lack of medical attention.
Capt Louis LEE GRAHAM who was in the same aircraft and was also imprisoned in Germany, survived and returned to England on 6.5.45.