In March 2010 Andrée Peel died of pneumonia at a British nursing home at the age of 105 and was buried at All Saints Church in Long Ashton near Bristol.
A casual observer seeing the honour guard from the Royal British Legion with their banners marching ahead of the funeral procession would be aware she had connections with the British military but it is unusual for the deceased to be honoured by two nations: her coffin was covered with both the French and British flags.
Andée Virot was born on 3 February 1905 in Brest and when Germany occupied France in 1940, she was running a beauty salon in Brest and immediately started to resist the German occupation by distributing clandestine newspapers calling for patriots to resist the German forces.
After coming to the attention of the Gaullist Free French based in Dorset Square London, Andree was given command of the Breton clandestine circuit and used the field name ‘Rose’.
Her resistance activities quickly expanded and included gathering intelligence on the German navy and their submarine pens, German troop movements and the effects of allied bombing and her reports were sent to London by wireless.
She also organised weapons, sabotage stores and agents from the Special Operations Executive (SOE) as well as the Free French Section (RF) to be dropped by parachute onto remote farmland but she always said her greatest achievement was helping 102 allied aircrews shot down over France to evade capture and return to England and later said this was the contribution she was most proud off.
By May 1944 Andrée Virot was high on the Gestapo wanted list and after obtaining forged identity papers she left Brittany and travelled to Paris where she was less well known by the Gestapo and the Abwehr (German military intelligence).
On 9 June, three days after D-day she was arrested and sent to Buchenwald Concentration Camp and later transported to the equally notorious Ravensbrück camp in Germany. The day she was due to be executed by the SS the camp was liberated by American forces.
After the war Andree ran a restaurant in Paris where she met an Englishman named John Peel who she later married, and the couple moved to Long Ashton near Bristol and in 1999 she published her memoirs, Miracles do Happen. After the death of her husband in 2003 Andrée moved into the care home where she later died peacefully in her sleep.
Her work with the resistance and the rescue of 102 British and American aircrews was honoured by several decorations including the King’s Commendation for Bravery presented to her by George VI, the US Medal of Freedom, the French Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honour which in 2004 was upgraded to Chevalier of the Legion. She also received a personal letter from Winston Churchill thanking her for saving the lives of British aircrews.
7 thoughts on “Andrée Peel (nee Virot) Heroine of the French Resistance”
Yet another brave woman who I knew nothing about. Fantastic Alan!
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She had seen so much, been so brave and lived a full life afterwards.
May she be suitably honoured both In France and the UK.
RIP Rose. xx
The legion of honour was later upgraded to Officer of Legion not Chevalier wich is the first rank in the order.
Another excellent piece. So good to see these brave peoples lives remembered. I have a couple of stories that were given to me by two of my friends in France. They can be seen in my wordpress blog. onlyvfr.wordpress.com
Remarkable story. The fight goes on. However, surely she must have been 105 and there are other reports of her death. A complicated hip surgery…
The are a number of conflicting reports regarding her death and the only reliable report is the death certificate!
Always very worth a read. Makes me wonder at times what I would have done in those circumstances. Keep up the excellent work.