The Sussex Safe house and the French Resistance: Bignor Manor

The Bertram Family (source unknown)

Anthony and Barbara Bertram with their young son rented a cottage called Bignor Manor in the small village of Bignor located in Chichester, West Sussex and quickly became respected members of the village community. There was nothing unusual about the Bertram family: they kept chickens and exchanged fresh eggs for other produce; their son had a pet goat called Wendy and he spent most of his spare time playing with other children in the village. 

Bignor Manor

   In 1995 Barbara Bertram published her war memoirs, ‘The French Resistance in Sussex’, and many of the villagers who knew the family during the war were shocked to discover the important role the Bertram’s and Bignor Manor played during the secret war in France.
   Bignor Manor was around 11 miles from RAF Tangmere which during the moon-period Lysander aircraft from 161 Special Duties Squadron used for air landings deep inside France to deliver and pickup SOE, MI6, MI9, RF (Free French agents) and Bignor Manor was the forward safe house for agents being transported to and from France.  

Sitting room and dartboard

  A dartboard in the sitting room concealed a cupboard containing equipment being issued to agents including personal firearms, special devices and weapons and Cyanide capsules.
  Even Wendy, the pet goat, played a part in their clandestine work. Barbara recalled, “London received an urgent wireless request to pick up an agent who was being hunted by the Germans. The BBC French service sent a cryptic message saying, ‘Wendy needs a new dress.’ This meant their message had been received and arrangements were being made. A few hours later a BBC announcer said, ‘Wendy has bought a new dress’ and this told the agents a Lysander had entered French airspace.

Author: Alan Malcher

Military historian and defence commentator

One thought on “The Sussex Safe house and the French Resistance: Bignor Manor”

  1. Dear Sir,

    It was while researching Bignor Manor – and more generally my dad’s young French resistance fighter, that I discovered your site and your writings. I think it’s a blessing to have found your name and your activities. Here’s why :

    As a member of the BCRA, My father (Michel Heuzé, alias Philippe Damien, alias Fournier) stayed at Bignor Manor in November 1943 before being sent to France to join his network (installation of a radio station). His story excites me and I discovered some details about him through Hugh Verity’s book “We landed by moonlight”.

    I have found a picture in the few papers he left that must have been very important to him because he kept hardly anything from that time. This photo shows an English soldier or officer (maybe his radio instructor?). I don’t know who to turn to for some information or information about that person, their rank or whatever. Maybe you could help me with your historical knowledge ??

    I know miracles do exist, so I’m thinking maybe you could even tell me who it is !! let me dream…. 😊
    I hope I haven’t bothered you, thank you very much for taking time to read me and maybe even time to answer me.
    Thank you very much in advance whatever you could do or not,
    Yours truly,
    Anick Heuzé


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