The SOE (DF) VAR Line
Rennes - and the beach at Saint-Cast-le-Guildo
This page first posted 27 April 2023
Operation Jealous, the first successful operation carried out for the VAR line, took place on the night of 28-29 October 1943, when MGB 697 landed SOE agents Erwin Deman and Emile Minerault to the Plage de la Fresnaye, near the town of Saint-Cast-le-Guildo, about 25 kms west of Saint-Malo.
| The second, Operation Jealous II, took place on the night of 1-2 December 1943, when MGB 502 delivered three agents, including VAR line radio operator Raymond Langard; and collected five people, including Emile Minerault and American aircrew evader, T/Sgt Clayton Burdick.
|The third operation, Jealous III, on the night of 23-24 December 1943, did not go so well ..
15 MGB Flotilla
|By 1943, with seaborne travel between Gibraltar and the southern French Mediterranean beaches generally denied them following the German takeover of southern France in November 1942, the options left for SOE agents to enter or return from France were limited to either crossing the Pyrenees via Vic Gerson's extraordinarily efficient VIC line, or going by air. The RAF Special Duties squadrons, by then based at Tempsford, could either drop agents by parachute from their converted bombers, or deliver them to the ground by Lysander or Hudson to prearranged fields. Return was obviously limited to the over-worked Lysanders or Hudsons, with all such operations being limited by the weather, and the availability of moonlight each month. A third option, of passage to or from the north Brittany coast by Royal Navy gunboat, was by then an obvious and urgent requirement.
| Although RN gunboats, MTBs and launches had been crossing the English Channel to France on various missions throughout the war, in the summer of 1943, 15 MGB Flotilla, with their experienced crews based at Dartmouth in Devon, was officially formed with the specific role of delivering and collecting agents, and generally supporting the various resistance and intelligence gathering groups in France. They were later given the additional task of bringing back stranded evaders.
| Basic details of the MGB operations from Brooks Richards 1996 book “Secret Flotillas”, published by HMSO.
| In early 1942, Commander Frank Slocum, head of SIS Operations Section, had been given the title NID(C) - Naval Intelligence Division (Clandestine) - but in June 1943, with competing demands on naval resources by the clandestine services, was appointed to the newly created post of DDOD(I) - Deputy Director Operations Division (Irregular). Leslie Humpheys (previously head of SOE French Section and now head of SOE DF Section, whose task was to run escape lines through France) promptly by-passed SOE's own naval section to arrange directly with Slocum for Peter Harratt, his staff officer in charge of operations by sea, to be trained (along with an agent of his choice) at the secret SOE naval base on the Helford river in Cornwall, in preparation of setting up a DF sea line to Brittany.
Peter Harratt and Erwin Deman
| Commander Edward (Ted) A G Davis RNR (born 24 December 1908), who represented Frank Slocum at Dartmouth, was the senior officer of 15 MGB Flotilla. He was vastly experienced in such work, with many pre-war years in the merchant navy, and in November 1941, had skippered an anti-submarine boat (MA/SB 36) to deliver a French agent off the Brittany coast near Morlaix (Operation Celery), and made frequent Channel crossings with MGB 318 since. He was also a close friend of Peter Harratt.
| Peter Harratt (born 1904) was one of the most decorated but least known about officers to have been part of SOE. He was educated at Wellington and RMC Sandhurst, and commissioned in the IV Hussars in 1922, serving with them in Lucknow (India) until retiring on half-pay in 1928. Married in 1931, he lived in south-west France, farming near the Pyrenees and the Spanish frontier, from where he followed the course of the Spanish Civil War from close quarters. He
is described by David Hewson as being a thin, very dark skinned man, with a head covered with black hair slightly tinged with grey, and eyes that were deepset, dark, and discerning. He wore his service dress cap on the back of his head in the way that many Cavalry officers seemed to do, and his usual welcoming smile was quickly apparent to those of the party that he had not previously met.
| In 1938, Harratt had become aware of the increased suffering occurring over the border and wanted to become involved. Contrary to what MRD Foot states, he did not join either the International Brigade or the Spanish Army but answered the call of the Quakers for help, driving lorries with food rations between London, Marseille and Barcelona until the end in February 1939.
| On his return to England, Harratt was chosen by Major Gerald Templer to attend a course organised by the War Office to identify those with past experience and a likely aptitude in the war which was seen to be approaching. As a result of this, he was picked for No 1 Military War Course at the Staff College from where he was posted as GSO3 to the Hopkinson Mission (later to become known as Phantom) assembling at the time in northern France. June 1940 saw him appointed as Intelligence Officer to 135 Brigade and subsequently to the same job with II Corps, where he was spotted as potential material for the SOE training course.
| Chosen to lead the main SOE contingent on the Dieppe raid in August 1942, with the task of capturing documents and personnel from the town hall, Harratt was wounded when the LCT in which the party were travelling was heavily attacked and unable to land.
| In December, following the collapse of the “Private Navies” previously organised by SIS, SOE, MI9 etc. Harratt was appointed to set up the VAR escape line between Dartmouth and the north coast of Brittany to infiltrate and exfiltrate agents, documents, radios and scientific instruments. For this he was awarded the MC and Bar, being described by Maurice Buckmaster (head of SOE F Section) as “one of the most courageous men I have ever known”. (David Hewson March 2013)
|I believe that Peter Harratt went ashore in the first surf-boat for all the VAR landings, as well as being flown out at least twice so he could speak to Erwin Deman personally by S-Phone.
| Erwin Deman is described by Richards as a “cosmopolitan Jew” but his background is a bit more complicated than that. Born on 15 January 1922 in Vienna to Hungarian parents Eugene Deman and Charlotte Weimann, Deman grew up in Budapest. In 1937, his father sent him to Portugal as a representative for his firm, “The Hungarian Preserve Manufactory”, and after six weeks, Deman went on holiday to Paris. With the annexation of Austria in 1938, he rejoined his parents in Budapest. Seeing that war was inevitable, Deman left Budapest for France, where on 26 September 1939, he joined the French army at a recruiting centre in Nice. He was “called to the colours” in February 1940, and joined the 32nd Infantry Regiment of Foreign Volunteers, stationed in Alsace. On 10 May, his regiment left for the Somme, where on 6 June 1940, Deman was taken prisoner.
| Deman spent ten months at Stalag XIIIA in Limburg before being transferred to Stalag IIIC at Alt Drewitz in Poland. He escaped from Stalag IIIC on 12 February 1941, and made his way to Unoccupied France, where he was demobilised (and awarded the French Military Cross). He then joined the Society of Voluntary Combatants, a secret anti-Vichy organisation. Towards the end of the year Deman tried to make his way to Gibraltar but after being arrested at the Spanish border, went back to Nice.
| On 3 February 1942, Deman joined the French Foreign Legion at Marseille, and was promptly sent to Algeria, where he was stationed at Sidi-Bel-Abbas. While serving there, he formed a secret society with the aim of organising a revolt against the Vichy authorities, and recruiting men from his battalion. When the Americans landed at Oran on 7 November 1942, the regiment was briefly ordered to form a front line, before being returned and confined to barracks, and Deman and his group staged a revolt by deserting and joining the American forces. Deman took some of his men to Oran where, after further difficulties, they boarded a British ship, the “Empress of Canada”, which sailed for Gourock.
| On 27 November, Deman was interviewed in London as a potential enemy subject but on 4 January 1943 was cleared. He so impressed “D/CE.G” (Sqn/Ldr Hugh Park, head of the General Security Section) that on 14 January, he recommended to his boss “D/CE” (John Senter – Director/ Security Section) that Deman be taken on to be trained either as an Intelligence Officer or an agent in the field. Erwin Deman was officially recruited by Sqn/Ldr Archibald (Archibald Robert Boyle, Operations Officer), and joined SOE on 25 February 1943. Deman's alias (to protect his family) was “Irving Dent”, his code name became “Daniel”, and his field name “Paul”.
| “Harratt and Deman lived for two months on a small boat (on the Helford river), becoming, in co-operation with DDOD(I)'s local representatives, experts in map-reading and map making, navigation, beach reconnaissance, clandestine beach landings from surf-boats and the use of the S-phone.” (Secret Flotillas)
|The S-phone was a directional, short-range, radio-telephone system developed by SOE to allow secure voice exchanges between aircraft and agents on the ground. The master set, on board the aircraft, had a 25 foot aerial while the ground set could be worn on the chest, and packed away in a suitcase. I think that a slightly different version of the S-phone was used for gunboats to communicate with shore parties .
Operations Mango and Dyer
|Through the summer of 1943, because of a lack of suitable gunboats being available, Frank Slocum borrowed MGB 326 (a C-Class Fairmile), and later MGB 697 (a D-Class “Dogboat” Fairmile), from Coastal Forces. With MGB 318 being the only gunboat permanently allocated to them, it wasn't until the larger Camper & Nicholson Class MGB 502 “Vosper” boat became operational, with her three diesel engines providing extra range and speed, that 15 MGB Flotilla could use her for the Jealous II operation in November 1943.
| The first attempt to land Deman from MGB 326 at Clogourouan beach, on the Ile de Batz, just north of Roscoff - Operation Mango on the night of 29-30 April 1943 - was “defeated by bad weather .. and no new attempt was made, probably because the nights were getting too short”. Deman was finally returned to France on the night of 19-20 August 1943, by 161 Special Duties Sqn Hudson (Hodges) to “Achille” field near Soucelles (Maine-et-Loire); Deman being the sole out-bound passenger on Operation Dyer which brought back 10 agents, including 46-year-old Vic Gerson, returning from his third mission.
| “The people of Soucelles are not very forthcoming about this page of their history, except for the daughter of the former farm of La Pilière, who was about twelve years old at the time. This farm is situated very close to the Grande Rivière meadow, which was called the "English Airport" because of the frequency of the "pick-ups" that were organised there by Déricourt and his assistants, and in which the farm's cows usually grazed .. Another testimony is that of the teacher's wife, still single at the time, daughter of the village café-grocery and who tells how, often at nightfall, men from outside the village would come furtively to buy matches before the café closed. François Mitterrand was one of these customers, and she formally recognised him when he became famous after the war .. ” (François Autret)
| François Mitterrand was collected from “Achille” field - as was Pierre Mulsant, Denis John Barrett and Yvonne Fontaine of Ben Cowburn's Tinker circuit, and Charles Rechenmann - by Hudson (Hodges) the night of 15-16 November 1943, on Operation Conjurer. Mitterrand, Fontaine and Rechenmann were all later returned to France by VAR.
| After landing at Soucelles, where he was received by landing officer Henri Déricourt and his assistant, Rémy Clément, Deman went to Rennes, and 10 rue Bertrand, in the centre of the city, home of Mme Jestin (who was in her seventies) and her two middle-aged daughters, Aline (née 15 Jan 1899) and Marie-José. According to “SOE in France”, Mme Jestin had been a nurse to one of SOE's staff officers, and Deman was given her address, and half a sheet from one of her letters to England by way of introduction.
| All three Jestin women had been involved in the KER group (until that was shut down following a wave of arrests in April 1943), along with a network of friends and contacts. One of their contacts was Felix Jouan, a wealthy 51-year-old mill owner and baker at Bédée (a small town about 20 kms west of Rennes). It was also the Justin women who recruited M et Mme Bieard, shoe merchants at 21 rue Saint-Helier.
| Marie-José worked in the Assistance Publique, while Aline worked at the prefecture in Rennes, which enabled her to acquire the documents necessary to circulate and live in occupied France in general - and the coastal zones in particular, for which special permits were needed. At the prefecture, Aline recruited Mme Guyader (and her husband Henri, who worked for the SNCF) of 8 Boulevard René Laennec, and established a “boîte postale” with her that would later become a contact point between the VAR and VIC organisations.
| Deman (in his report on returning to London) described Aline Jestin as being about forty years old, 5 feet 4 inches tall, very thin, with brown hair - a “typical old maid” in appearance but always well dressed. Deman saw that she expected to paid but that she was extremely honest - describing her as reliable, efficient, resourceful and apparently very sharp when it came to tasks that required intelligence - and she became treasurer for VAR .
| Marie-José Jestin was about the same age, slightly shorter than her sister, with black hair, “beautiful” black eyes, and a pleasant physical appearance. She was extremely methodical, thorough, reliable and equally intelligent. Not interested in money, she was very calm, and Deman felt that he could rely on her more than on her sister.
| Mme Jestin was very short, with white hair. Deman describes her as being kind and friendly and although she understood that her daughters were engaged in clandestine work, she knew nothing due to the fact that she was somewhat senile.
| There was a third Jestin daughter but she was married to a Petainist from Le Mans, and when she came to visit, precautions are taken by the other two sisters to avoid her meeting any of their contacts.
| Deman created a cover for himself as an insurance agent (a popular if perhaps over-used occupation), based in Rennes, with Aline Jestin supplying a census form and carte de travail saying that he worked for the "Aigle et le Soleil" insurance company, whose office in Rennes was in collusion with Aline, and would cover for Deman in case of problems. It was during these first few days whilst Deman was staying with the Jestin ladies, that he met Dr Andrieu, M. Biard - and Félix Jouan.
| Aline Jestin telephoned Jouan at his home in Bédée, and asked him to come and meet a friend of hers. Felix drove part way in his gazogène car, and Aline and Deman went to meet him. All three then went back to Bédée where Jouan showed Deman the preparations he had already made for three safe houses and told him about a prospective landing field just a few miles away, near Iffendic (which Deman inspected later). He also introduced Deman to his brother-in-law, Doctor Pierre Bourdais, and two young men, the first, referred to by Deman as Marcel I, a réfractaire with false papers supplied by Aline Jestin, who was engaged to Jouan's daughter Anne Marie (I believe this was 22-year-old Georges Morant who married Anne Marie in 1946), and Marcel Jacq (Marcel II).
| Another of the Jestin sisters' contacts was Louis Lecorvaisier, and a few days after Deman arrived in Rennes, they asked him if he would be willing to help protect a radio operator. When he agreed, one of the sisters brought Lecorvaisier back to rue Bertrand, where she introduced him to Deman.
|Louis Lecorvaisier had been involved with various militant groups, including one headed by Mlle
Marie Anna Rabu (born in Vitré on 13 July 1902), a catholic trade-unionist who
lived at 47 rue Saint-Helier in Rennes, and
helped escaped prisoners and distributed clandestine newspapers. Lecorvaisier (genuinely) worked as an Inspector for the Cie d'Assurances Generales in Rennes, where he stayed in contact with Mlle Rabu, gathering military information on German activity in the countryside around Le Mans, where he lived. That information was passed to the KER network
until 8 April 1943 when Mlle Rabu was arrested, and the network destroyed.
|In August, Mme Jestin (the widow of a magistrate), that Lecorvaisier had met through Mlle Rabu when she and her two daughters had also worked with the KER network, introduced Lecorvaisier to the newly arrived British agent, Erwin Deman. Twenty-four hours later, Lecorvaisier was recruited by Deman, and left Rennes on his first mission for reseau VAR. (Lecorvaisier report)
| Deman describes Lecorvaisier as being 28 years old looking thirty, 5 feet 4 inches tall with a normal build, brown hair combed back and light brown eyes. He had a moustache, and sometimes wore black glasses. He was married with two children, and whilst his wife (who was living with the children in Le Mans) was fully aware that he was involved in clandestine activities, she did not take part.
| Deman asked Lecorvaisier if he could go to the Angers area straight away, and Lecorvaisier left next day for Soucelles. Deman had instructed him to find the field where he had been landed, check out the area, talk to the local people and see if the Germans knew about the landing, and if everything seemed clear, to book two rooms in a hotel where they could stay. Three days later, Deman joined Lecorvaisier at Soucelles, and together they reconnoitred the field, found the equipment (S-phone, Emerson radio, and two revolvers) which had been hidden in some nearby thickets.
| Deman then left again, leaving Lecorvaisier to find a suitable location for him to hold an S-phone conversation with an aircraft from the UK. On Deman's return three days later, the two men settled down to wait for the aircraft.
| Deman had some prospective landing beaches to be inspected, and it must have during these times away from Soucelles that he made his trips to Saint-Cast-le-Guildo (about 90 kms north-west of Rennes) and Rotheneuf (north-east of Saint-Malo, and about 25 kms east of Saint-Cast).
| Deman took a train to Lamballe, and then rode the rest of the way to Saint-Cast-le-Guildo on a bicycle loaned to him by Aline Jestin. He had a list of possible contacts, and the first one he visited was a woman who worked for the Lefort family, Annice Genet at la Hune. The original idea was to use the beach below Mme Lefort's villa at 27 avenue de Pen Guen, on the eastern side of the Saint-cast peninsula but Deman quickly saw that it was heavily mined and covered with obstacles, and anyway, Mme Genet was too afraid to get involved herself. However, when Deman mentioned the name Urban, she suggested that Deman go and see Mme Urban's daughter, Mme Rohan, whose husband was in England. When Deman finally found Mme Rohan, she explained that she couldn't help him with accommodation as she was living with her son-in-law, Rene Fostin, but introduced Deman to her nephew, Aristide Sicot . Aristide was staying with his parents in their house on the western side of the peninsula, and they quickly agreed to help Deman, and after spending the night at the Sicot home, Deman returned to Rennes.
| Aristide Sicot confirms (in his report dated 15 January 1945) that it was in August when Deman first came to Saint-Cast-le-Guildo with a list of contacts provided by (SOE agent) Cecily Lefort, who owned a house in the area. It was through those contacts that Deman spoke to Eugenie Rohon, who immediately suggested that Deman should speak to Aristide, her nephew (by marriage).
| The Sicot family was Aristide (born 1892), a retired-naval aviator, and his wife Louise (née Frostin 1896) with their son Aristide (born 1919), who was a school teacher, and daughter Renée (born 1922), who was also a teacher. Mme Eugenie Rohon (née Urban 1903) was the sister of the wife of Louise Sicot's brother, René Frostin, who lived at nearby La Ville Norme.
| Aristide and Louise Sicot lived at 33 rue des Nouttes, in a villa called Les Feux-Follets (a modest but stylish house built in the 1920s, now bordered on one side by the Impasse Louise et Aristide Sicot), in Saint-Cast-le-Guildo, and their son Aristide, who was on holiday from his job at Pléhédel, was staying with them at the time .
| Deman duly approached the younger Aristide (a stocky, dark haired man with a ruddy complexion), explaining to him that he needed a house very near the coast, all possible information about quiet beaches, tides, dangerous rocks and German outposts. Sicot drew, at Deman 's request, a sketch of that part of the coast giving all the required information and showing the best beaches. Sicot was not told what all this information was for but thought that it had something to do with an invasion. The other request was that he should find a driver to transport passengers between Saint-Cast and a small station to be selected by him. He chose Plestan (just outside the restricted coastal zone, about 35 kms south-west of Saint-Cast) and found a reliable driver - Jean Lebouder. A few days later, Sicot met Deman's lieutenant Louis Lecorvaisier (aka Yves) and arranged to meet him again the next day at an agreed rendezvous. Sicot says that Deman then left for England.
| Aline Justin had been on a preliminary reconnaissance of the Rothéneuf area, where she had holidayed before the war, and reported that the trains were checked, and that her contact, Doctor Andrieu, had said the main roads were also controlled. Deman wanted to see for himself, and he asked Felix Jouan to drive him there, Jouan knowing the area well enough to take side roads that avoided the controls. Deman found the Boudeville family, who ran the boarding house where Aline had stayed, very enthusiastic about helping, and that they had a guest house not far from a suitable beach. After establishing security instructions and passwords with the family, and handing over a cash deposit, Deman was given a key to the guest house before returning with Felix to Bédée, and on to Rennes alone.
| Deman also needed someone to go and reconnoitre the Saint-Pol-de-Léon area (north-west of Morlaix, and about 140 kms from Saint-Cast),
and include a visit to Ernest Sibiril's boatyard at Carantec to see if they could somehow work together (Sibiril had organised several boats taking Frenchmen (and four Allied airmen) to England, before sailing for England himself at the end of October 1943).
Jouan suggested his future son-in-law (Marcel I) to do the job as he was supposed to know the area well but Marcel I turned out to be a less than ideal agent. He did however report that the beach was difficult to access and heavily controlled, and the area was discounted as a suitable landing site.
| It's not clear when Felix Jouan introduced Deman to the British airman he was sheltering in his house, P/O Leslie Brown, but Deman had a long conversation with him, the first time Brown had been able to speak to anyone in English since his arrival in France on 8 August.
| P/O Leslie Charles Brown (1535) from Beverly, East Yorkshire, was the 22-year-old observer of 88 Sqn TAF Boston BZ296 (Angus), which was shot down on the afternoon of 8 August 1943 during a raid to bomb a naval storage site in Rennes. Pilot P/O Walter Patterson Angus and wireless operator/air gunner P/O Sidney Oliver were killed but Brown was thrown from the aircraft and landed near the village of La-Chappelle-des-Fougeretz (about 5 kms north-west of Rennes).
| Brown ran to hide but was soon found by some local people who brought him food, wine and some civilian clothes before telling him to “aller”. He hid all that night and the following day, and then set off north along the railway line from Rennes, before turning east, and approaching an isolated farm. A farm labourer took Brown back to his own house on the outskirts of Rennes where he spent the night.
| Next morning (10 Aug), the labourer took Brown out into a field to have his photograph taken, and that evening, an elderly man took Brown back to his house for the night. Next day, the man who had taken his photograph, took Brown to an allotment, where Brown spent two nights in a tool shed, before being taken by car to Bédée, where he was sheltered by Felix Jouan for the next five and a half weeks.
| Brown says that on 20 September, his host told him that he was expecting his sister-in-law to visit, and as he didn't trust her, Brown was taken back to Rennes to be sheltered by Mme Jestin at 10 rue Bertrand, where, on 1 October, he was handed over to an organisation.
| Brown reports that while he was staying Bédée, he was visited three times by a man called “Paul”, who claimed to work for the British Intelligence Services. He spoke perfect English (giving Brown the impression that he was in fact English) and was working in Rennes. He told Brown that he would take him back to England with him by aeroplane (Deman was hoping to return by air himself) but this didn't happen, and Paul apparently left the area after 23 September.
| On 27 September, Brown received a letter from Paul (posted from Lyon) saying that he would be taken from Rennes on 1 October, although it wasn't until 4 October that an elderly lady arrived to take Brown, on 6 October, via Paris to Lyon.
| Brown stayed in Lyon for a week until another lady took him via Narbonne to Perpignan, arriving there on 14 October. That evening, he set out with an Englishman, a Dutchman and two Spanish guides to cross the Pyrenees overnight to Spain. After hiding just across the border for a further five days, the party were collected by car and taken to Blanes (on the Catalan coast), from where on 21 October, two guides took them by train to Barcelona. Brown left Gibraltar on 6 November 1943, flown overnight to RAF Whitchurch (Bristol).
| Between 8 and 15 September, Deman and Lecorvaisier stayed in Soucelles, lodging with a Mme Simon, and pretending to be on holiday. "They led the honest life of summer people", according to Louis Lecorvaisier. However, they soon realised that this cover would not last very long and that the presence of two young men supposedly on holiday in a place like Soucelles, where there was absolutely nothing to do, would very quickly raise questions. Deman, never short of imagination and resources, then undertook a flirtation with a local married woman (his SOE trainers had noted that Deman had an eye for the ladies), a flirtation that generated enough gossip to divert attention and remove any suspicions. It was during their time at Soucelles that Lecorvaisier says Deman asked him to be his second-in-command of the VAR network.
| Following Deman's S-phone conversation with Peter Harratt (on the evening of 15 September), who told Deman there would be no more aircraft landings for VAR, Deman was given an address and password phrase he should use to contact the VIC line in Paris, and Deman left Soucelles for the capital (where he met Lecorvaisier again the following day). On 20 September, Deman and a VIC line courier called Hortense (Louise Lefort) left Paris (with Hortense travelling separately) by evening train for Lyons, where he met Vic Gerson (who he recognised from London – he also told Gerson about P/O Brown in Rennes, and gave him the passwords agreed with the Jestin women). Gerson said that he would give Deman top priority, and Deman was sheltered in a VIC safe house just off the rue de Madeleine, where he joined two Belgian agents, identified as Belfrog and Gofer (Louis Francou and Paul Goffin). They were due to leave Lyon on 24 September but that was postponed by news that their guide at Perpignan had not yet returned from a previous trip, and then delayed further by reported bad weather, so it wasn't until the morning of 31 September that Deman and two Belgians finally took a train to Narbonne, and on to Perpignan.
|They set off walking that night, crossing into Spain on 2 October to spend the night in a hut near Figueras, and reaching Barcelona on 4 October. After spending six days at the British Embassy in Madrid, Deman was taken (along with a group of evaders) to Gibraltar, and flown overnight, arriving at RAF Lyneham on the morning of 14 October.
| A few days after his meeting with Deman in Paris, Lecorvaisier returned to Soucelles with Marcel Jacq to collect Deman's radio equipment and take it to Rennes, to be stored at the Jestin home.
| Marcel Jacq (originally from Brest but now living in Bédée) had been studying dentistry in Rennes (where he probably knew René Bichelot - see later), and met Felix Jouan when he came to play football in Bédée - presumably with Felix son Ernest. He wa s 22 years old, a réfractaire from the STO, and penniless. Deman gave him a certain amount of money to help him get by, and later a small regular salary. He was intelligent, very discreet and quickly took on responsibilities within the network.
| Lecorvaisier had also been introduced to Felix Jouan, and through him, met Doctor Pierre Bourdais (born 1895), the brother of Felix wife Marie Louise. The doctor had retired to Bédée (with his wife Juliette) and turned their Rennes apartment at 15 avenue Jean Janvier over to the organisation, who used it as their headquarters.
| Meanwhile, back at the coast, Jules Labbe, secretary at the marie at Plurien, was recruited to provide false identity cards - he kept a list of those in the commune who had died, and used that to choose a person whose age and description was closest to any newly arrived agent. He could also supply the organisation with “Livrets de Famille” should any of them need to rent a house. Aristide Sicot says that M. Labbe didn't actually know what the cards were used for but he had worked with Aristide before, and didn't ask any questions. The Sicot family at Les Feux-Follets were also making preparations for the upcoming landings, digging a hiding place under the floor of their house for agents or materiel.
| 25-26 Oct: Op Jealous (Mango 4 for SOE): MGB 697 (D-Class Fairmile). Failed due to late arrival and deteriorating weather.
| 28-29 Oct: Op Jealous (Mango 4 for SOE): MGB 697 (D-Class Fairmile) to land Erwin Deman and Emile Minerault with stores and radio gear at Pointe-de-Saint-Cast.
| Presumably it was Peter Harratt, acting on information from Erwin Deman, who made the final decision that the beach at Saint-Cast should be used rather than Rothéneuf, and on the night of 25-26 October, MGB 697 set out on Operation Jealous (aka Mango 4) to land agents Deman and Emile Minerault. Unfortunately deteriorating weather delayed the gunboat's arrival so much that the operation was abandoned but a second attempt, three nights later was successful.
| The landing beach (Richards refers to it as the Greve-du-Mousselet), was the Plage de la Fresnaye, to the south-west of the Pointe du Chatelet headland, and just a few hundred yards from the villa Les Feux-Follets, home of Aristide and Louise Sicot.
There was no reception party at the beach because London had no way of contacting the Sicot family in advance. They could probably have contacted the Jestin women in Rennes but although Aline Jestin had met the younger Aristide, Deman 's sense of security ensured that she didn't know his real name, nor where he lived.
| After getting themselves and their stores ashore, and seeing Peter Harratt returning to the gunboat, Deman and Minerault hid the stores before making their way to Les Feux-Follets. Deman threw stones up at Aristide Sicot's window to wake him, and when there was no reply, knocked on the window below. Aristide senior asked who was there, and when Deman gave him the agreed passwords, let the two men in. The younger Aristide was not there, so it was his father and mother Louise who went with the two agents back to the beach to retrieve their luggage - which was then hidden, and the S-Phone Deman had brought buried for later collection.
| Deman asked Aristide to arrange a car to take them to Plestan, and it was presumably Jean Lebouder who drove them to Plestan station, where they took a train to Rennes.
| Emile Minerault (aka Raymond) (born in France on 27 September 1911 but a naturalised American since 1936) and Erwin Deman were landed from MGB 697 near Pointe-de-Saint-Cast at about two o'clock on the morning of 29 October 1943. Minerault describes how the two agents made their way to Les Feux-Follets at 33 rue des Nouettes, about 400 yards from the beach, where they contacted the owners, Aristide and Louise Sicot . After Deman gave the password, they were “received without difficulty”, and returned to the beach to collect their suitcases.
| On 31 October, Aristide Sicot arranged to have the two men driven to Plestan station, where they took an early morning train to Rennes. Leaving their luggage at the station, Deman took Minerault to a shoe shop at 21 rue Saint-Helier, home of M et Mme Bieard. Minerault stayed at rue Saint-Helier until Tuesday 2 November (there being no trains running on Sunday, and Monday being a holiday), during which time Deman brought “Yves, his right-hand man” (Louis Lecorvaisier), to meet Minerault.
| On 2 November, Minerault took a morning train to Le Mans, where he changed for Rouen, arriving there that afternoon .. see later (Operation Jealous II) for details of Minerault's mission.
| After leaving Minerault at rue Saint-Helier, Deman called on the Jestin sisters at rue Bertrand to find out what had been happening since his departure in September, and then had Louis Lecorvaisier come to their apartment so the two men could go and talk to Minerault about his mission. After Minerault left for Rouen, Deman went to Bédée to make arrangements with Felix Jouan for a parachute drop that was due to take place about ten days later.
| The drop took place on the night of 15-16 November. Deman heard the BBC message confirming the operation for that night, and says that he thought it was a tremendous success as far as S-Phone communications were concerned, and he was able to speak directly with Peter Harratt. Deman reported that Minerault, who had returned to Rennes on 8 November with just two men rather than the twelve hoped for (see later), and so Harratt told him that he could send out whoever he liked instead. Deman was less happy with the drop itself as the package landed outside the landing field, and was only found the following morning.
| At the beginning of November, Erwin Deman had sent Marcel Jacq to Paris to see if he could recruit a female agent who would be prepared to play the part of his wife - the idea being to set up a “home” in Rennes that could be used as a base for the organisation's contacts as they passed through the city. Jacq met seventeen-year-old Ginette Courtois, in a bar in Montparnasse, who told him that she had just left her father and was on very bad terms with her family, and she quickly accepted Marcel's proposal to come to Rennes and play the role of "faux wife" under the name Danielle Marion. She was never supposed to be involved in dangerous missions for the network, although she did take part in some of them.
Operation Jealous II
| 26-27 Nov: SOE (DF) Var Line Operation Jealous II (MGB 502) (Williams). Failed because MGB delayed by German convoy and reception stood down.
| 1-2 Dec: SOE (DF) Var Line Operation Jealous II (MGB 502) (Williams) to land 4 (sic) SOE agents and to embark 4-6 SOE agents.
| The waxing moon precluded further attempts until the last week of November, by which time SOE had asked Slocum to land four (sic) agents to Deman and pick up between three and six others. MGB 502, by now fully operational, was detailed to carry out Jealous II as her first job, with 31-year-old Lt Peter Williams RNVR, the senior MGB captain of the flotilla, her commanding officer, and 23-year-old Lt Michael Salmond RNR as navigator.
| The first attempt at carrying out Operation Jealous II, on the night of 26-27 November, failed after the gunboat was delayed by the appearance of a German convoy, and the shore party stood down. The second attempt, on the night of 1-2 December, went to plan, with three SOE DF Section agents being safely landed, and five men being collected.
| Deman says of the first attempt that a few minutes after he had sent the beach party back to Les Feux-Follets, a parachute flare went up, and as soon as it died down, they left the area. He sent Chartrand to contact the Rouen circuit, which had a radio operator, to try and find out what had happened, while he stayed in Rennes until they heard a BBC message saying the gunboat would be returning. Because the radio operator wasn't sure his signal had got through, Deman decided to signal the gunboat using a special RAF torch, sending his aerial recognition signal out to sea every 45 minutes to let the gunboat know everything was alright. He says that immediately after sending his first signal, he spotted two rowing boats, and then used his S-Phone from the beach, where he met Peter Harratt and the landing party.
| Passengers landed were Raymond Langard, Robert Chapman and Konstanty Popiol.
| Raymond Henri Langard (born 23 March 1916 in Champagne) arrived in England from Massingham (Algeria) on 15 January 1943. He had left France in November 1941 to avoid being deported to Germany, and travelled to Algeria, where he worked as a “technical engineer”. Langard, who didn't speak any English, and was also apparently very “French looking”, joined SOE in February 1943 to be trained as a field agent (where his determination and acute sense of security were duly noted). He acquired his Finishing Certificate on 13 November 1943, which included training as a wireless operator (but not parachuting, due to an accident in training) and was transferred to DF Section. With the alias of “Jules Dumas”, and the field name “Gilbert”, Langard was to be the radio operator for VAR, where Deman refers to him as “Dinu”.
| Robert Arthur Chapman (born 1 May 1901 in Antwerp) “should have gone in by parachute but weather delayed his departure for two weeks, by which time the moon period had passed, and it was therefore decided the trip should be made by gunboat .” In his report dated 9 January 1945, Chapman describes their second attempt at landing, with Peter Harratt going ashore first, and meeting the reception party of two on a small beach in Brittany. He says that three people landed, taking eight packages with them. Chapman had two cases, one with his personal equipment and one with his radio set (which Deman insisted be sent to him in Lyon separately as travelling with two cases would be seen as suspicious - it finally reached Chapman on 14 January). He reports that one of the other men was a radio operator he identifies as “Denut”, and says that he was going to the VIC circuit in Rennes.
| Chapman describes being rowed ashore from the gunboat, with Peter Harratt in the lead to identify the reception committee before returning to the gunboat with the four (sic) bodies to be exfiltrated. The reception committee consisted of two men, Daniel (in charge) and Aristide, and Daniel led them on a hard climb from the beach to a house, arriving at about one o'clock in the morning, where a good meal was waiting for them, after which they turned in.
| Daniel stayed at the house until the curfew lifted at five o'clock, when he left with Chapman's ID card (to be amended to show him as living locally). After a late lunch, Aristide led them on foot to a taxi which took them to Plestan station (he says Pleuven), to take a train for Rennes. However, they were met at the station by Daniel who took them to Rennes in a van, and left them at an empty house. Next day, they (Chapman and Popiel) were taken out for dinner and then put on a train for Paris, from where Chapman took an overnight train to Lyons, where he was to be the radio operator for Vic Gerson's second-in-command, George Levin.
| Konstanty Popiol (born 22 November 1907) (aka Loyola) was being sent to France to “create lines of escape for agents, and to establish two courier lines for carrying messages and material from France to England”. He describes (in his report dated 20 November 1944) the first landing, with the gunboat being delayed, and the party disembarking but when Peter Harratt found no reception committee at the beach, he gave orders for them all to re-embark, and return to England. The second landing, five nights later, saw him and two other agents, a Belgian he names as “Cardinal” (Chapman's traing name) and a Frenchman he refers to as “Dumas” (Langard), both radio operators, safely landed, and six agents (with whom they had no contact) taken off. He says the reception committee consisted of the chief, “Daniel”, a fisherman and the fisherman's son, who took them across cliffs and rough country to a safe house, where they were given a meal. Daniel left them in the care of the fisherman's son (Aristide Sicot), who took their identity cards to the maire at Plurien in order to obtain “laisser passers” for the three agents, returning with them later that morning. Popiel reports that when Daniel returned and found the three agents only had one identity card each, and that they were now certifying the agents as living in the Plurien area, he was furious, as they could not be safely used elsewhere in France without drawing attention to Plurien. He asked the agents to destroy their cards at the first opportunity, and obtain new ones (which Popiel did a few weeks later with help from his Paris contact – see below).
|At this point, Popiel's version of events differs slightly from Chapman as he says it was Yves (Louis Lecorvaisier) who met their taxi at Plestan station, where they stayed in a nearby cafe for fifteen minutes before discretely making their way to a truck that Yves had parked some 200 yards away. On their arrival in Rennes that evening, Yves took them an empty apartment belonging to a doctor friend of his, where Yves had already prepared a meal for them. After the meal, Yves and Dumas left Popiel and Cardinal to spend the rest of the night in the apartment. Yves returned next morning with food before taking Popiel and Cardinal to the station, stopping off on the way to have lunch in a black-market restaurant frequented by uniformed SS officers, which Yves assured them was the most secure place in Rennes. At the station, Yves bought all three of them tickets for Paris, and on their arrival in the capital, Popiel made his way to the contact address he had been given in London at 17 rue des Prairies (Paris XX), home of Monsieur Robinet (who Popiel says had been recruited by Daniel). As there was no answer when Popiel called, he went back to a cafe near the station where he had arranged to meet Yves, who took him to spend the night at one of his own safe houses. The following day, Popiel spoke to the concierge at 17 rue des Prairies who told him that the Robinets had moved the previous year to their business address (they owned a book shop) on boulevard Arago, where Popiel found them the following day.
| Passengers collected were Emile Minerault, Gabriel Chartrand, Clayton Burdick USAAF, Rene Bichelot and Ernest Jouan.
| Emile Minerault (aka Raymond) had been sent on a mission to collect a group of nine downed airmen, and he had a contact address in Rouen, La Magazine de Couture, Micheline, a dress shop at 72 rue des Carmes owned a Mme Micheline and managed by Jean Pierre Sueur (born 11 November 1887). Jean Sueur took Minerault to meet SOE agent Philippe Liewer (aka Clement) (organiser of the Salesman circuit covering Le Havre and Rouen), who told him that the nine airmen had been captured a few days earlier but there was an American airman at Le Havre, and an agent in Paris called “Claude”, who both needed to be taken back to England.
| The following evening, Minerault and Liewer took an overnight train to Paris, and Liewer took Minerault to 8 Place Breteuil, Paris VII, home of Mme Lamboreau. They arranged a rendezvous for that afternoon at the Cafe Ruque near the Palais Royale (assume the Cafe Ruc at 159 rue Saint-Honoré), so that Liewer could bring the agent Claude (Gabriel Chartrand, who had been staying at 8 Place Breteuil for some time) to meet Minerault. Liewer also promised to bring the American (Clayton Burdick) to 8 Place Breteuil on 6 November (he was actually brought to Paris by Suzanne Le Borgès), along with the necessary ID papers.
| On Monday 8 November, Minerault, Chartrand and Burdick left Paris from the gare Montparnasse on an afternoon train to Rennes; Minerault with Burdick, and Chartrand in another compartment, arriving at Rennes late that night. They were met at Rennes station by Louis Lecorvaisier, who took them to the apartment at 15 avenue Jean Janvier, where the four men spent the night.
| Erwin Deman came to the apartment next morning, and after Chartrand had his photograph taken for the papers necessary to enter the Zone Cotiere, they were all taken by lorry to Bédée, and a windmill where they had lunch, and where they stayed until Thursday 18 November.
| Marcel Jacq arrived with the same lorry on 18 November to take Minerault, Chartrand and Burdick to Montfort station, from where the four men took a six o'clock evening train to Plestan. They were met at Plestan station by Aristide Sicot, who drove them to Saint-Cast to stay at his parents' home, Les Feux-Follets.
| Marcel Jacq had told Minerault to expect two more men, Ernest Jouan (son of Felix Jouan) and René Bichelot (see below), and they both arrived at the villa on 20 November, where they all waited until the Friday when they were supposed to leave.
| They received the first radio message on Friday 26 November, and got ready that evening, leaving for the beach at ten-thirty, where Minerault took charge of the four “travellers”. Erwin Deman and Aristide Sicot went down to the shore with an S-phone to contact the gun-boat, and at eleven-fifteen, spoke to Peter Harratt but only for a few seconds. The S-phone broke down at twelve-fifteen, and after waiting until one o'clock, Deman decided they should all return to the villa.
|Next morning, Minerault and Deman drove to Plestan and took an early train to Rennes, where Deman stayed while Minerault took another train to Paris. After two nights in the capital, Minerault took a train to Rouen where he hoped to find Philippe Liewer but Jean Sueur told him that Liewer had just left for Paris. Minerault took an evening train back to the capital, and the following morning, another train to Rennes where he expected to meet Deman at 21 rue Saint Helier. Instead, he found a letter from Deman telling him to go straight to Plestan.
|There were no more trains that day, so it was the following morning when Minerault took a train to Plestan, where he was met by Aristide Sicot who drove him to Saint-Cast. There, Minerault found Deman and a group of people waiting for him, and at one-thirty that afternoon, they heard a radio message telling them of their planned departure that evening.
| When they checked, they found that the S-phone didn't work and so decided they would signal the gun-boat with a lamp instead. Minerault and Burdick would form a reception committee on the beach while Chartrand, Ernest Jouan and René Bichelot would hide in some bushes, with Erwin Deman and Aristide Sicot further away in order to give the signal.
| Deman was the first one to spot the approaching surf-boat, and after unloading three men and their luggage, the departing group got in at about one o'clock, to be rowed out to the waiting MGB.
| Joseph Gabriel Chartrand (born 14 August 1907) was landed at “Bronchite” field near Pocé-sur-Cisse (Indre-et-Loire, about 30 kms east of Tours) the night of 14-15 April 1943 on a double Lysander Operation called Salesman with Salesman organiser Philippe Liewer (aka Clement); and Henri Frager (Paul) and radio operator Andre Dubois (Hercule) in the other aircraft.
| While Liewer went to Paris, Chartrand stayed at Joué-les-Tours for the next three weeks with Andre Dubois' mother-in-law, Angèle Meneau, during which time he says that Andre Dubois put him in touch with a woman named Micheline, who had shops in both Paris and Rouen. Liewer wanted to set up his HQ in Rouen, and Mme Micheline offered them her Rouen flat as a safe house, and recruited her manager in Rouen, Jean Sueur, to help them.
|During a later visit to Paris with Liewer, they met Max (Francis Garel, nom de guerre of Jean Bouguennec) who Liewer had known at Mauzac prison, from where they and others had escaped on the night of 14-15 July of the previous year. Chartrand arranged to meet Max the following week, and on his return to Rouen, asked Liewer if he could transfer to Max's Butler circuit. Chartrand duly moved to stay with Doctor Henri Goude (born 1909) (IS9 gives his address as 29 rue Nationale) in Chateau-du-Loir (Sarthe), where he organised and instructed a local group already formed there.
| At the end of July, Chartrand decided to visit Andre Dubois in Tours only to learn that he was being hunted by the Germans. The following week, Chartrand returned to be told that Dubois was safe but Mme Meneau had reason to believe her house, where she was sheltering an American airman, was likely to be searched.
| On 6 August, Chartrand collected the American, S/Sgt David Butcher (#483), from Mme Meneau, and having left him in a safe place, went back to Tours to arrange a meeting with Andre Dubois' wife to help her contact another radio operator on behalf of her husband. Shortly after leaving Mme Meneau's house, Chartrand was stopped and told the German police wanted to have a word with him but Chartrand managed to escape, retrieved Butcher and took him to Dissay-sous-Coureillon. He contacted Doctor Goude and asked him clear out his belongings, and arrange to have him and Butcher taken to stay with Oscar and Albertine Moneris in Vouvray-sur-Loir, about three kilometres east of Chateau-du-Loir.
| Chartrand and Butcher remained with the Moneris family for about five weeks before Chartrand contacted Max, and on about 8 September, Chartrand received a card from Max telling him to go to an address in Paris. Butcher stayed at Vouvray (and was eventually passed to Françoise Dissard in Toulouse) while Chartrand went to Paris and stayed at the address Max had given him until meeting with Philippe Liewer and moving to 8 Place Breteuil, apartment 15e. He says that he met Henri Frager there when he came to collect an RAF airman who had been sent to Chartrand by Liewer.
| In early November, Liewer introduced Chartrand to Raymond (Emile Minerault) and an American airman (Clayton Burdick) that he had collected, and on 8 November, Minerault took Chartrand and Burdick by train to Rennes.
| T/Sgt Clayton H Burdick (#240) from Racine, Wisconsin, was the 24-year-old radio operator and top-turret gunner of 386BG/554BS B-26 41-34971 Pay Off (Caldwell), which was returning from the Luftwaffe fighter base at Beaumont-le-Roger on the afternoon of 22 August 1943 when they were attacked by fighters. With the left fuel tank hit, and the bomb bay "a mass of flames”, the order to bail out was given, and the aircraft abandoned - Burdick says that shortly after he jumped, the aircraft exploded and broke into two pieces.
|Burdick landed near a small village, and after burying his parachute, ran for about two miles to a farmhouse he had seen during his descent. He waited until dark before approaching the house, where he was taken in and given a meal. Before he could even start eating, two Frenchmen arrived with civilian clothes, and as soon as Burdick had changed into them, rushed him off to a “place where his journey was arranged”.
| Burdick had came down near a farmhouse, where he found a lady and two small children. He declared himself as an American, and she gave him some food but five minutes later, two Frenchmen arrived on bicycles. Neither man spoke any English but they took Burdick to another farmhouse, where he stayed the night with a man, his wife and two teenage sons, aged about 16 and 18. Next morning, the man and his elder son took Burdick by train for Rouen, getting off at a small town shortly before the city. He was taken to an apartment, where he was given a suit of clothes, and stayed the night with someone called Guy, aged about 32, and his younger brother Roger (21). The following day, he was taken by train to Harfleur, where Mme Carmen Lopez (of Quai Prosper Godefroy) and her 19-year-old son Raymond sheltered him for the next two and half months.
| On 8 November, Suzanne Le Borgès (née Jouveaux on 15 July 1914) took Burdick to Paris and an apartment at 8 Place Breteuil, Paris XV where he met “Claude” (Canadian SOE agent Gabriel Chartrand ), and two days later, Emile Minerault took him and Claude by train Rennes.
| Rene Bichelot (born 9 January 1922) was a student at the Ecole Dentaire in Rennes (where he probably knew Marcel Jacq) until June 1943, when he was denounced for distributing Gaullist propaganda He had joined a resistance organisation in October 1942, assisting young people to escape the relève (a scheme whereby young men were sent to work in Germany in exchange for the return of French POWs) and providing them with false identity cards. On 10 July 1943, he received orders to report to the Bureau des Travailleurs Embauches en Allemagne for work in Germany, and immediately went into hiding on a farm 6 kms from Martigné-Ferchaud, with an identity card in the name of Rene Bertrand. That same month, he says that he met François (SOE agent François Vallée (aka Oscar) organiser of the Parson circuit) when he came from England to Martigné to take over from Robert Tiercery (aka Fred), and organise a parachute operation - Vallee's friend Henri Hubert Gaillot (aka Ignace, born 20 April 1896 in Belgium) and radio operator Georges Clement (aka Edouard, born 20 October 1917 in Petrograd) landed on 24 July 1943. In September, several houses in Martigny were searched by the Germans, and Bichelot was told the Gestapo had his description and the name Rene, but he was in Messac that day, helping his “chef de groupe”, General Marcel Allard with a parachute drop.
| On 17 September, a farmer named Bree asked Bichelot to check the identity of US airman 2/Lt Louis Glickman (mentioned later), who had landed by parachute on the Bree farm the previous day. Rene then took Glickman to stay with the farmer's son-in-law, Georges Daniel of La Vallee en Messac, for two days until General Allard took Glickman to Les Hautes-Folies, his home at Messac.
| In October, Bichelot took part in a parachute reception at Guer, where an extra container that the reception party were not expecting, was lost after being smashed against a house, and parts of the container only found the following day. One of those involved with the Guer group was the vicomte Bouexic de la Driennays, and it seems that one of his servants betrayed the group with the result that although the comte was actually in Paris at the time of the parachutage, he and his family were all arrested. It was after this incident that François Vallée ordered Bichelot to go into hiding.
|Bichelot returned to Rennes, where he spent the first week of November with Maitre Baudet, avocat in the Cours d'Appel, but after he was denounced again at the dental school, François Vallée advised him to leave the country, an escape that Bichelot says he arranged himself through a friend - about whom he gives no details.
On his arrival in England, and carrying a letter from François Vallée to SOE conducting officer Andre Simon, Bichelot was recruited by SOE (F Section), and returned to France by parachute the following May to join the Bagpiper (originally Scholar) circuit.
| Ernest Jouan, son of Felix and Marie Louise, had returned home to Bédée while Deman had been in England. Deman says he was rather insecure, and that his father worried about him, and so Deman decided to send him to England.
|Deman Report dd 1 March 1944: “I had to receive my operational dates for the next period by written orders, so I was rather in a hurry to get the wireless working to receive orders for exfiltration. I therefore sent Dinu [Raymond Langard] to the Jestin sisters to send a message from there. About 15 minutes after he had started we had to go off the air with a danger signal, on account of an RDF (radio direction finding) aircraft which was flying over the house. Marcel [Marcel Jacq] became Dinu's assistant, and I sent him out to Fougeres NE of Rennes, and to Redon, to find safe houses suitable for the W/T. In the meantime, Dinu worked with quite good results from the transit safe house which Danielle [Ginette Courtois] kept at Rennes.”
| It was at about his time (early December) that the Jestin sisters introduced Deman to 38-year-old Marie-Thérèse Stoffel from Quimper (daughter of one of the safe house keepers there). She explained to him that she was fleeing the Gestapo because she thought she was being looked for following what she considered was a rather trivial affair (no details given). She made a very good impression on Deman and he recruited her. She became Lucie (or Lucy) and was installed in the network's headquarters in Rennes in Dr Bourdais' flat at 15 avenue Jean Janvier.
| Shortly after that, Louis Lecorvaisier went to Redon to make contact with Anne (Ninon) de Beauchesne, who had been recommended by Lucie as a safe person to join the network.
Operation Jealous III
| 23-24 Dec: SOE (DF) Var Line Operation Jealous III (MGB 502) (Williams) to land 6 agents and embark up to 9 agents. Deman contacted by S-phone but visibility being good, the MGB was sighted and fired upon from shore, and the operation abandoned.
| Operation Jealous III, attempted by MGB 502 on the night of 23-24 December 1943, was (according to Richards) intended to land six SOE agents (including two women) to the Plage de la Fresnaye, and collect up to nine passengers for England. These included one RAF and five US airmen, along with French General Marcel Allard, and Andre Hue (see later). S-phone contact was established between Deman the gunboat, and those waiting to be embarked had got as far as hiding in the rocks above the beach when the gunboat was spotted by German sentries.
| “MGB 502 anchored off the Pointe-du-Chatelet in the early hours of Christmas Eve and the surf-boats had just been lowered when a white flare burst overhead, turning night into day. The surf-boats were hoisted back in, the grass anchor warp cut with an axe and the gun-boat's engines restarted. Her stealthy approach meant that the ship was still lying facing the head of the bay but because she was so far into the bay, she was beyond the field of fire from the German cannon at the entrance. However she did receive machine-gun and small-arms fire as she turned at speed to make her exit, heading at full speed and with violent changes of course as she escaped back into the Channel, suffering only the loss of a signal halliard.” (Secret Flotillas)
| Deman reports that Dinu (Raymond Langard) received the BBC message and went to the S-Phone point on the beach, where he switched on and received a message immediately from Peter Harratt. Contact was very good and Harratt said that they would be in in about 30 minutes, and asked Deman to warn him as soon as he saw the MGB or heard their engines. Eventually Deman says he saw a back “spot” in the distance which he thought was probably them. As they were travelling at what Deman describes as “great speed” he sent the following message: “Do not come so close. Any German who looks in your direction will see you.” Then a parachute flare went up, and Deman says that he could distinguish the officers from the beach as they were only about 150 yards off the shore, that they did not land but turned around and went off at full speed. When the gunboat left the bay, the German guns opened up.
| The shore party rushed back to the beach house (Les Feux-Follets) as fast as they could, taking all the compromising equipment with them, and Deman posted sentries on both sides of the house. Nothing happened during the night, and next morning Deman and Aristide Sicot raced away on bicycles to fetch Felix Jouan and his car. Deman reports German fighter aircraft patrolling the bay, and some German patrols in small motor boats landing on various beaches to look for footprints. Deman and Sicot found Felix Jouan, and Aristide went back with him in a lorry, where they crowded all the people and equipment into the lorry, and took them back to Bédée.
| Deman says there were 15 people all together at Bédée, and they spread them out amongst all the safe houses that Felix Jouan had organised there, with the equipment into a special hiding place they had built earlier. Deman then left for Redon to see Dinu (Langard). At the time, Langard 's radio would not work at Redon, so they went to Rennes, and there Deman received instructions concerning the beach at Beg-an-Fry. Deman was also told to send four men (assume Pierre Morel, Bernard Dubois, Georges Bourdet and Paul Gommeriel - see later) to another contact in Paris.
| As there were still too many people at Bédée, Deman decided to send the six airmen, and a Frenchman who spoke good English (Andre Hue), to Redon. From there, Lucie (Marie-Thérèse Stoffel) took the six airmen, in two parties, to Paris.
| The six evading airmen were 2/Lt Louis Glickman (#370), 2/Lt Sidney Elskes (#402), 2/Lt Arnold Wornson (#435), T/Sgt Max Gibbs (#436), S/Sgt Cloe Crutchfield (#437) and Sgt William Bilton RAF (1773), who (along with others) had been helped by the Bordeaux-Loupiac organisation until, on 11 October 1943, Jean-Claude Camors and Remy Roure were shot outside the Café de l'Epoque in Rennes.
| Glickman and the others ran back up the cliff and Glickman says it was Felix Jouan who took them back to the house, Les Feux-Follets, where they were hidden in an underground shelter that had been dug under the dining-room floor. Next day, General Allard decided that he wanted to stay with the Jagu family at La Chapelle-Thouartault where he and Glickman were sheltered for a week until Paul Deman and Felix Jouan came with a tall “mannish” Frenchwoman called Lucie (described by Wornson as Paul's chief lieutenant) and took Glickman to join the other evaders at Bédée. That evening (3 January) Glickman and the others were taken to Redon where Glickman stayed with an unnamed family (probably with Anne de Beauchesne) for a week until Wednesday 12 January, when Lucie took him, Arnold Worson and William Bilton to Paris.
| Lucie also took Elskes, Gibbs and Crutchfield to Paris, from where, like Glickman, Worson and Bilton, they went on to Lyon before crossing the Pyrenees to Spain.
| The agents to due to be landed on Operation Jealous III included Emile Minerault, the French-born American who had returned to England on Operation Jealous II, Denise Bloch, who was subsequently landed by Lysander on 2 March 1944 (Op Laburnum), Fergus Chalmers-Wright (aka Francis Chalkley), who Foot says crossed the Pyrenees in January, Henri Frager (see Operation Easement III later), Pierre Mattei who was parachuted into France on 11 February 1944 (Op Stationer 32) ; and one more, only identified in a note by Peter Harratt as “Williams 395”.
| Contributors: David Harrison, David Hewson, Francois Autret (without whom this article would never have been attempted), Paul McCue, John Howes and Franck Signoril.
| Authors: François Autret “Paul, Aline, Yves, Aristide .. et les autres”, Brooks Richards (1996) “Secret Flotillas”, M R D Foot (1966) “SOE in France”, Keith Janes (2017) “They came from Burgundy”, Hugh Verity (2000) “We Landed by Moonlight”.