Stella Lonsdale aka Simone de Lavalliere aka Michael aka …
Stella Edith Lonsdale was born in Olton, Warwickshire on 9 January 1913. She was the daughter of a commercial traveller named Ernest Clive, and his wife, also named Stella. At twenty-one, she was living with her business partner and financier, Paul Christian Bog Holme, twenty-four years her senior. Her first marriage was to Nicolas Sidoroff (son of White Russian Prince Dimtri Magaloff) in 1936 in a Monte Carlo church but as this "marriage" did not comply with French civil law, it was void. They had one child who died at six months. On 14 July 1939, she married John Christopher Mainwaring Lonsdale - he of the "Mayfair Playboy Affair" - at Kensington Registry Office in London. On 12 January 1940 she left for France to visit her mother-in-law in Paris and also to visit John who was then stationed with the Royal Engineers in Nantes. He returned to England in February but returned to see Stella in Paris in late April before returning once more to England. Stella went back to Nantes and stayed on when the Germans occupied the city.
Apart from having to register daily, Englishwomen apparently had little to complain of and Stella got herself a job teaching English in the local Berlitz. She enjoyed a reasonable salary from the school which was augmented by a monthly allowance from the American Consul. There were many German students at her classes and inevitably they tested her to see if she could be persuaded to become a German agent. Ironically it was a Frenchman, Jean Plattieu, himself a German agent, who then denounced her as a Gaulist after she rejected his approaches. They were both arrested after he belatedly tried to retract the charges. Stella was taken to German Intelligence HQ at Angers in November 1940 and interrogated by a Major Dirnbach. She remained in Angers until February 1941 when one of her interrogators (whom she recognised as someone she had known in Paris in five years earlier) suggested she become an agent. He was born in France, educated in England and America and now worked for the Germans - she referred to him as René and he became her lover.
She later told MI9 that although she had been recruited to work for the Germans, a German Intelligence Colonel suggested she actually work for England by infiltrating the escape line in Marseille and getting herself sent back to England. Once there she was to convince the authorities she could negotiate a peace treaty on behalf of her German sponsor who would then parachute into England to "discuss plans to deal with Hitler".
Stella Lonsdale only seems to appear in the story of the Marseille organisation around the time of the arrests at the Hotel Noailles in July 1941 (see Article) when so many of the operators were caught by the local 2em Bureau after visiting room 530. Elisabeth Haden-Guest, Pat O'Leary and Mario Prassinos along with newly arrived Francis Blanchain were taken to Sureté HQ at Evéché police station. Prassinos soon talked his way out and O'Leary (as Adolphe Lecomte) was released soon afterwards. Jean Fourcade and Nadine Pastre (both of whom were genuinely looking for Elisabeth) Paul Dubart (who had come from Donald Caskie's Mission and didn't know anyone) and Jan Jankowski were also arrested but soon released, as was Stella's current lover - Czech journalist and would-be secret agent, Frank Winer (or Weiner). Blanchain didn't know anyone either but he was held along with Elisabeth H-G and Tom Kenny, who had rented the room as a regular meeting place for the group, until November. The object of the arrests was to find the head of the organisation, Ian Garrow, but the few people who actually knew where to find him (Pat, Mario and Elisabeth) weren't talking.
During her interrogation, Elisabeth Haden-Guest was told by Captain Dutour of the Marseille Surété that both Stella and Winer were working with the 2em Bureau (Stella later claimed her boss was "Leclerc" in Vichy), whilst Stella told Surété inspectors Gars and Brun that she worked for the Organisation. In fact Winer had been in contact with Garrow and tried to join the Organisation and bring Stella in with him but Garrow hadn't trusted Stella. Dutour tried to arrange a meeting with Garrow promising that Garrow could come under parole and not be arrested and in September at least two meetings did take place between Garrow and Dutour in Dutour's office - and Stella and Elisabeth were present, Elisabeth as a prisoner but Stella free to leave at any time. Garrow visited Elisabeth again under Dutour's protection but eventually he was arrested by 2em agents working directly from Vichy. Exactly what role Stella played in this drama is hard to determine from the few reports that survive but it seems likely she was just a bit player in a show-down between rival French security forces, the Vichy bureau being convinced that Garrow worked for the famous British Intelligence Service rather than just helping escaping servicemen.
Stella Lonsdale left Marseille 27 October - apparently sent out of the country by Pat O'Leary who had taken over the Organisation after Garrow's arrest a few days earlier. She took the train to Barcelona and Madrid and then a Lufthansa flight to Lisbon, arriving 4 November. Next day she was flown into Bristol airport. The fact that there was no delay in Lisbon strongly suggests some high powered influence being exerted.
MI5 counter-espionage certainly had an interest - within days of her arrival, Guy Liddell made an entry in his private diary about her 'extremely interesting' case, and she was soon handed over to TAR Robertson's German espionage section. Robertson wanted to see if Stella could be used as a double-cross agent. (from the Diary of Guy Liddell as published on the Internet by David Irving from PRO file KV4/187)
On 14 November 1941 Stella Lonsdale was being interviewed by British Intelligence officers - they refer to her as "Michael" in their reports. One of the MI officers was James Langley and he refers to her briefly in his book, using the name Christine Wolf Derwent. Stella had acquired a lot of interesting information whilst in France - she was able to report accurately on the arrests of several SIS agents as well as that of Pierre d'Harcourt, previously only reported from Geneva by another SIS agent - and she knew that Claude Dansey, who she demanded to meet personally, was the head of British SIS.
After being installed in a flat at Porchester Gate, on the Bayswater Road in London, where she was interviewed by a succession of intelligence officers, Stella was arrested in July 1942. She was accused of withholding information likely to be useful to the war effort, and sent first to Aylsbury gaol and then to Holloway prison where she spent the next three years. For some time she shared a cell with Mathilde Carré - La Chatte - whom she taught English and who in turn was encouraged by the authorities to report on Stella's conversations with her.
After the war Stella became involved with George Fox Pitt-Rivers, a very wealthy former Captain in the Royal Dragoons, anthropologist and Eugenics expert. He was also a fascist and Moseley supporter who had been interned from 1940 to 1942 by the Home Office under Regulation 18b for his pro Hitler attitudes.
On his death in July 1966, Pitt-Rivers left Stella, who he described in his will as "his beloved", a substantial amount of his fortune, including his Chelsea flat at Cadogan Gardens. Stella Edith Pitt-Rivers died in January 1994.
My thanks to Alexander Garrow and John Clinch for much of the information used in this article