From an Ottawa Newspaper (likely the Ottawa Journal) - February 1945


Less than eight months ago, close to midnight on June 23, 1944, a solitary British plane winged its way over a quiet countryside somewhere in southern France. Suddenly, a light blinked feebly but clearly from below. Without hesitation, two men jumped from the plane and, their parachutes billowing in the inky blackness, floated slowly to earth.

A thousand yards away was a German military camp, but if the Germans heard the plane or suspected anything out of the ordinary that night, they did nothing about it. It was not wise for German soldiers, except in very large numbers, to venture forth into a lonely countryside in those days of the Nazi occupation.

One of the men who dropped that night into a life of constant danger and excitement was American captain. The other was a fair-haired French-Canadian sergeant - Lucien Joseph Durocher of Ottawa.

The two men belonged to what was called the Special Force Unit. They had been specially trained in North Africa and flown from there to France to help organize the Maquis and to send news of enemy troop concentrations and guns positions to the Allies.

Lucien Durocher - now a lieutenant - is one of an undisclosed number of Canadians selected for this hazardous work. He is one of few who survived. He is at present back in Canada, his job in France having been successfully completed, enjoying a well-earned leave.

The youngest of five children of Arthur Durocher, baker, and Josephine Poirier, he was born at Casselman, Ont. on June 26, 1920. His two brothers, incidentally, are both in the air force.

Lucien Joseph Durocher

The family moved to Embrun, Ont., while he was an infant. In 1935, they moved to Ottawa, where Lucien attended LaSalle Academy, and then the Ottawa Technical High School.

Enlisted in 1939
He had completed his third year, was just about to return for his fourth when war broke out. On Sept 4, 1939, he enlisted as a signalman in the Royal Canadian Signals Corps. He had been a member of the Non-Permanent Active Militia for two years previous. He admits that, while patriotism had something to do with his joining up, the main impulse which prompted him to do so was a craving for adventure.

Shortly after, Lucien was sent to Barriefield Camp, near Kingston, where he was trained as an operator in wireless telegraphy. In early December, three months after he had enlisted, he was on his way to England as a member of the First Canadian Division.

England was something new to the young French-Canadian who, although born in Ontario, had not had much intimate contact with English-speaking people. He found the English strange and distant at first but gradually came to like them. Of his English-speaking comrades in the army, he says they were all "one happy family".

"I think from my own army experience that, if French and English Canadians would mix more together, they come to like each other," the young lieutenant says. "The trouble is we didn't know each other."

Many dull months of routine battle training passed until one day in August, 1941, Lucien and some of his comrades were given new equipment and put on a train for a Scottish port, from which they sailed for the Norwegian island of Spitzbergen.

The purpose of the trip was to destroy the weather forecasting equipment on the German-occupied island. It took about three days to get there. The expedition arrived at Longyear Byen at noon, and after the Norwegian flag had been hoisted as a signal, Lucien and seven others landed, meeting no opposition. The others followed.

A week later, after destroying the vital weather equipment and setting fire to coal mine shafts and huge piles of coal, the expedition left the devastated island for Britain - still completely unmolested by the Nazis - bringing with them the 1,500 Norwegians and two Germans who had resided at Longyear Byen.

More battle training followed in England until June, 1943, when, attached to the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, he left for the Mediterranean theatre of war. On July 10, he landed in Sicily, one of the first wave of infantry to reach the shore in the island's invasion.

The invasion of Italy followed, and Lucien was in the front lines until after the battle of Ortona, one of the fiercest of the Italian war. But by this time, not having suffered even a scratch, he was finding the throes of battle somewhat monotonous.

When a British officer asked for volunteers to do liaison work with the French resistance movement in German-occupied France, he volunteered. "Sicily and Italy had not satisfied me," he says.

Made a sergeant only a few weeks before, Durocher left for North Africa in April, 1944. There he was specially trained for work in an enemy-occupied land.

At the end of June, he and an American captain were furtively dropped from an airplane in southern France. They were met by the local leaders of the Maquis whom, until the invasion of southern France in August, they trained in guerrilla warfare and themselves helped to fight the enemy.

Many are the tales which Lieutenant Durocher tells, once he can be persuaded to talk of secret missions, of blowing up German troop trains, of attacking the enemy along lonely roads in the night.

One of the lieutenant's tales concerns a shoe factory, where there were hundreds of pairs of boots which the Nazis planned to seize and ship off to Germany. In a daring raid, Durocher and his French companions drove up to the factory, filled their truck to capacity with boots. Back in their hideout, they counted the boots - 1,500 pairs.

In July 1944, after the invasion of Normandy but with the Allies still far away, Lucien was with a group of some 15,000 resistance forces who had liberated 10 square miles east of Grenoble in the Alps at a point close to the Swiss frontier.

The Germans decided on a major attack. The French commandant ordered the Canadian sergeant to leave the area. He managed to escape through the Nazi lines on a bicycle. Some days later he returned, following the German attack. He says the scene was one he will never forget. There was complete devastation, with hundreds of civilians killed and bodies of months-old children lying scattered about.

Durocher has no kind words for the Germans. He recalls finding the body of a Maquis who had been tortured with steel wires being turned on his wrists until his hands dropped off. The man's eyes had been gouged out, but still he would not talk and had finally been killed.

He says the Maquis were a wonderful people - "brave, yound and real patriots." He says it was a great pleasure to work with them.

Lucien and his group finally made contact with the conquering Allied troops on September 4 last. This meant that his work was finished. He remained in France until October 14, visited Paris and was transfered back to London. There the young sergeant found that he been made a first lieutenant on August 6.