Last update: 28 January 2023 - Dernière mise-à-jour: 28 janvier 2023
Photo of Lucien Durocher from the Durocher Family - Beechwood Cemetery Monument Photo from Personal Collection
Lieutenant Lucien (Joseph) Durocher (1920-1985)
SOE Spy/Agent & Radio Operator (World War 2)
This site is dedicated to the memory of Lucien (Joseph) Durocher.
In the spring of 2019, I was informed that there would be a special event titled “Spies in the Cemetery” at Beechwood Cemetery (BC)
in Ottawa on the 9th of May. I was invited to prepare a display on clandestine tradecraft using artifacts from my collection
from the Cold War and prior. I read in the original email invitation that BC representative Nicholas McCarthy had information on Canadian WW2
spies buried at Beechwood – that greatly piqued my interest and I asked Nicholas about the identity of those individuals. He replied
that they were pilots in WW2 on either bombing or reconnaissance missions behind enemy lines. I replied that even though these would
indeed be brave endeavours, they were still not spies per se (unless perhaps if they landed agents in enemy territory as was often
done with Lysander planes). I recalled that there was an excellent pamphlet titled
"Uncommon Courage" published in
1985 by Canada’s Ministry of Veterans Affairs – that publication identified approximately 108 Canadians who took on missions behind
enemy lines as SOE or MI-9 agents during WW2. I decided to look at each one
alphabetically and google the name along with the string “Beechwood Cemetery” – the first hit was for Lucien Durocher which lead me
to this RC-Sigs website which indicated he was a graduate of
RC-Sigs and was born in 1920 and died in 1985. This RC-Sigs website and Roy McLaren’s book “Canadians Behind Enemy Lines” (published in 1981)
indicated that he was born in Casselman Ontario – so the next step was to have Nicholas at BC validate this fact from their files. He
was able to confirm that this was indeed the case in addition to this family detail: “Denis is named as son – Parents are Arthur Durocher
and Joséphine Poirier”. I eventually came across this geneological website
which contained a photo of his headstone at BC thereby confirming the RC-Sigs component! Given this research and discovery, I was asked to offer a short talk on Lucien Durocher at the "Spies in the Cemetery" event - I provided the main findings while quoting him from an article from the Ottawa Journal titled
"Lt. Lucien Durocher Ottawa Chutist Tells of Adventures", an edition from 16 February 1945.
After that talk, I felt determined to find Lucien's son Denis - I searched online in the Ottawa/Gatineau region for
any “Denis Durocher” but there were too many. I decided to track Denis starting with the only information that I had, namely
his parents names. Although unable to find the obituary for Arthur, I was able to find
that of his brother Roland which indicated that he had many children (including any married names) – of particular note was Nicolle Alkenbrack which was promising as her name was
certainly uncommon! Further research eventually brought about my getting a Twitter account in order to attempt reaching one Nicolle
Alkenbrack in Saskatchewan – this proved to be an "Eureka" moment and she put me in touch with Denis Durocher who, it turns out, lives not far from Casselman!
Denis informed me that Lucien had another son Jean and a daughter Anne. Following my first phone call to Denis, it was decided that both Denis and Jean would
come visit my collection and more importantly, have a discussion about their father Lucien. Meeting Denis, Suzane (Denis’ wife) and Jean was
a very warm and most positive encounter especially since they did not know about Lucien being an agent in WW2! However, they were aware
that he had served in Europe in WW2. They provided much information, insight and photographs which I used to write an article in the Beechwood Cemetery magazine titled “LT. LUCIEN JOSEPH DUROCHER” which is accessible through this
online PDF document -
it is the last article in the magazine. If you are to read only one item from this webpage, it would have to be the latter online document!
Born on 26 June 1920 in Casselman (Ontario), Lucien Durocher received his schooling in Embrun, L’Orignal and Ottawa (LaSalle Academy and
Ottawa Technical). He joined the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals on 3 September 1939. Shortly after, Lucien was sent to Barriefield Camp,
near Kingston, where he was trained as an operator in wireless telegraphy.
Roy McLaren in his book seems to suggest that Lucien Durocher and John Dehler knew each other while in
Ottawa before the war. In early December 1939, three months after they had enlisted, they were on their way to Great Britain as members
of the advance units of the First Canadian Division. They were also both with the Canadian brigade sent to Spitzbergen in August 1941 -
from June 1943 to early 1944 they were wireless operators with battalion and headquarters in Sicily and Italy. From there, they were
recruited by the UK’s Strategic Operations Executive (S.O.E.) and sent to Algeria for accelerated training such as sabotage, small arms,
and clandestine wireless communications.
Durocher, a tall, lanky young man who spoke fluent French and who was a skilful and experienced wireless operator, was parachuted down in
southern France (near Lyon) on 24 June 1944 as part of Team DODGE for a JEDBURGH/OSS mission. In two respects, Durocher was unique among
the Canadian volunteers with SOE in Europe; he was not commissioned as he had the rank of sergeant; and he was part of an OSS (Office of
Strategic Services – precursor to the CIA) mission. By mid-1944, many mixed teams were being sent into France; Americans, Canadians, Free
French, and British. Some were commando units, others sabotage teams. American Major Cyrus Manierre who headed the small DODGE team was
full of praise in his letter of commendation for Lucien Durocher: “Sgt Durocher parachuted into France with me on 24 June 1944. He was
immediately successful in establishing radio contact with Algiers, and for over eight weeks he acted as a secret radio operator behind
enemy lines in enemy occupied territory. Sgt Durocher was required to make long trips in civilian clothes though a German occupied region
and he carried his radio on each of these trips. His accomplishments as a radio operator behind enemy lines were completely successful due
to his courage, foresight, and endurance in the face of enemy obstacles and hazards as well as his high professional ability”.
Lucien Durocher was awarded the following medals: a) 1939 -1945 Star, b) Italy Star, c) France and Germany Star, d) Defence Medal, e) Canadian Volunteer Service medal with clasp, and f) War Medal 1939-1945 with Mention in Dispatches.
When Lucien Durocher returned from Europe to Ottawa in February 1945, he was featured in a number of Ottawa newspapers in which he describes his experiences. In an article in the Ottawa Journal on 15 February 1945, he recalls that, since he was a tall blond-haired man, he stood out as a non-native in southern France – in Lucien’s words: “My French commandant finally succeeded in getting me to cut my hair in a brush-cut style – like a German’s. After that, the Maquis started shooting at me!” A few weeks later in 1945, he was joined by his British wife Jean and they raised a family in Ottawa – they had three children (see family photo below).
Lucien with wife Jean, sons Denis, Jean and daughter Anne (in arms) - 1949
Lucien Durocher’s armlet worn while behind enemy lines in southern France (1944)
Lucien Durocher passed away in 1985 and his burial site is at the Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa, and is located in Section 27, Range D, grave #139.
If you ever wish to visit Lucien Durocher's burial site at Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa, it is located in Section 27, Range D, grave #139. Here are two maps which should be helpful:
Here are a number of references including a newspaper clipping from the World War 2 period:
Thanks to the UK National Archives, here are some letters of commendation/merit for Lucien Durocher:
In addition, here is a self-written biography by Lucien's hand during his stay in Algiers in Algeria:
Sources of Information and Photos:
- Lucien Durocher’s children : Jean, Denis and Anne (especially almost all of the photos);
- SOE Archives File on Lucien Durocher at the UK's National Archives;
- “Canadians Behind Enemy Lines” by Roy MacLaren (1981) - (1981 - ISBN 0-7748-0147-6) - in particular,
page 121 onwards;
- “Eisenhower’s Guerrillas – The Jedburghs, The Maquis, & The Liberation of France” by Benjamin F. Jones - (2016 - ISBN 9780199942084);
- The booklet "Uncommon Courage"
- available online from Veterans Affairs (Canada - 1985 - ISBN 0-662-54053-0).
If you have questions or suggestions, please email Richard at his firstname.lastname@example.org email address.
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