Apart from Krystyna Skarbek, GM (aka Christine Granville) who served with SOE’s French Section several Polish men and women also served with SOE EU/P in France, but this section is less well documented, consequently, there is much we don’t know about Wladyslaw Wazny and several claims about his war service are not supported by primary sources.
It is believed Wladyslaw Wanzy also known as Wladyslaw Rozmus was born on 3 February 1908 in the village of Ruda Rozaniecka to a peasant family and trained as a teacher and in 1934 was a Second Lieutenant in the Polish Army Reserve. At the start of the Second World War he was a platoon commander with the 39th Lwów Rifles Infantry Brigade and after the occupation of Poland he escaped to France and reached England via Spain and Gibraltar where he was later recruited by SOE.
It has been claimed but not confirmed, he infiltrated France in March 1944 and sent London the location of 59 V1 and V2 rocket launch sites which were later destroyed by Allied bombers. Although it is known Wazny was killed shortly before France was liberated there is still confusion regarding events leading to his capture and death.
Wladslaw Wanzy after his arrest
Various theories about his capture and death
Some claim he was shot whilst attempting to escape, others say he was shot several times after shooting several Gestapo officers but was still alive. It has also been claimed that in July 1944 the Abwehr discovered members of his network and located their wireless operators with direction-finders and this led to his capture.
A further claim states that on 19 August 1944 the Abwehr and Milice raided the last of his safe houses which was a Tailor shop in the town of Montigny-en-Ostrevent and there are also various accounts of what happened next. Some say Wazny was involved in a shoot-out with German soldiers and the Milice after being surrounded and was hit by several rounds from a submachine gun, another version states he was shot in the leg as he climbed over a garden wall to escape. Whatever the story, as can be seen by the photograph of him in police custody he was captured alive and was later killed and buried in the cemetery of Montigny-en-Ostrevent, France.
Krystyna Skarbek (aka Christine Granville) OBE,GM was a Polish agent who worked for D Section SIS (MI6) before serving with the Special Operations Executive. During the war she became known for her daring exploits in German occupied Poland and France which was recognised by being awarded the George Medal.
On 15 June 1952 she was stabbed to death inside a hotel in Earls Court London by a jilted lover who was stalking her. (Photos IWM)
Phyllis ‘Pippa’ Latour MBE, Legion of Honour (France), 1939-45 Star, French and German Star, Croix de Guerre (France).
South African born Latour moved to England to join the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) but due to be able to speak fluent French and having spent time in the country she later came to the attention of the French Section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE).
After volunteering for hazardous missions and passing selection she completed the technically challenging training at the Wireless and Security School at Fawley Court, Buckinghamshire.
On the night of 1 May 1944 she parachuted into Normandy to join the Scientist circuit as their wireless operator and was constantly on the move to avoid being tracked down by German wireless direction-finders during which she sent over 135 messages to London to support the French Resistance whilst posing as a teenager whose family had moved away from the industrial areas to avoid Allied air raids.
After the war she married an Engineer with the surname Doyle and she never discussed her war service with her family until her children found an article about her on the internet in 2000. She now lives in Auckland, New Zealand and at the time of writing (November 2021) she has just turned 100 years old and is thought to be the only surviving member of SOE’s French Section.
Some historians claim most of the resistance in the Netherlands was nonviolent, but this was not the case. The British Special Operations Executive (SOE) had a Dutch Section which supported resistance and it was widely acknowledged gender was an important tool for both passive and aggressive resistance to German occupation.
Hannie Schaft with SOE supplied Sten Gun
It was often easier for women to talk their way through German checkpoints whilst transporting weapons, underground newspapers and carrying messages; there are accounts of young women walking hand-in-hand with Jewish children whilst escorting them to safe houses whilst appearing as an older sister walking with a sibling, and there are several accounts of female members of the resistance seducing German soldiers to obtain intelligence before luring them to remote areas and killing them. After the war Truus Oversteegan said she compared the Nazi regime as “cancerous tumours in society that had to be cut out like a surgeon… For Hannie, Freddie and me there was no other solution than to resist, fighting fire with fire… That is the cruelty of war.
It was in Haarlem, a city outside Amsterdam in northwest Netherlands, where the three teenagers: Truss Oversteegan, her sister Freddie and Jannetje Johanna ‘Hannie’ Schaft killed collaborators and German soldiers. The Oversteegane sisters started their resistance activities by distributing anti-German flyers and newspapers before becoming skilled assassins. The three women shot dead Dutch collaborators who were giving the names of Jewish families to the German authorities and they were killed in the street during daylight to act as a deterrent. They also flirted with collaborators and German soldiers and took them to woods and shot them, and the thrree were also involved in street shootings from bicycles so they could get away quickly.
The Oversteegan sisters after the war
The Oversteegan sisters survived the war, married and had families but Hannie Schaft who had distinctive red hair was captured and executed on 7 April 1945. It is known at one point she dyed her hair black and assumed the name Johanna Elderkamp but by this time she was too well known by the Gestapo.
Muriel Byck was born to Jewish French parents on 4 June 1918 in Ealing, London. From the few records available it is known that from 1923 to 1924 she lived with her parents in Wiesbaden Germany and the family moved to France in 1926 before returning to London in 1930 where she continued her education at a French school in Kensington, London.
From 1936 to 1938 she worked as a secretary and then became an assistant stage manager at the Gate Theatre. At the outbreak of war she undertook voluntary work with the Red Cross and also the WVS (Women’s Voluntary Service) and in 1941 she moved to Torquay and worked as an Air Raid Precaution Warden.
In December 1942 she joined the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) as a general duties clerk and was recruited by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in September 1943.
After passing the Student Assessment Board at Winterfold House in Cranleigh Surrey, it was claimed she attended the unconventional warfare course in Scotland, but this is unlikely because agent trained wireless operators were specialists with a high degree of technical competence who were difficult to replace and were forbidden from engaging in aggressive operations. Documents also show she completed her wireless and security training at Thame Park in Oxfordshire and then passed the compulsory and academically challenging trade craft course at Beaulieu.
On the night of 8-9 April 1944 Muriel Byck along with three other agents infiltrated France by parachute and after going their separate ways Byck joined the Ventriloquist circuit organised by SOE agent Philippe de Vomécourt to work as his wireless operator.
Using the cover name of Violette Michéle and pretending to be the niece of Philippe de Vomécourt, who used several cover names but was generally known as Antoine, she chose several safe houses to use her wireless to receive orders and make arrangements for weapons, explosives and other equipment to be dropped by parachute; she was always on the move to avoid being located by German wireless direction finders and ensured her wireless traffic was sent in under twenty minutes to lower the chances of her location being discovered.
One of her safe houses was in the town of Salaries in central France which was owned by a member of the resistance called Antoine Vincent and she used her wireless from a shed behind a garage in Limoges until she noticed it was under surveillance and immediately changed her location, name and cover story.
She then moved into the home of a blacksmith and transmitted from several properties. Sometime in May 1944 (dates vary according to sources) Philippe de Vomécourt arrived at the blacksmith’s house to find Muriel Byck collapsed on the floor unconscious and called a doctor who worked for the resistance who diagnosed an advance stage of meningitis requiring immediate hospital treatment. The doctor warned de Vomécourt he had no contacts at the hospital he could trust and the Germans were always notified of new admissions and both were concerned her false identity papers would not pass close examination but an hospital was her only chance of survival.
After placing her on the rear seat of a car de Vomécourt drove her to the nearest hospital and after obtaining assistance from a nurse he disappeared before questions could be asked.
On 23 May 1944, at the age of 25, Muriel Byck died in hospital from Meningitis. She was buried in Romorantin, a commune and town in the Loir-et-Cher department and for many years her grave was tended by local people who also commemorated the anniversary of her death as a heroine of the resistance and her body was later moved to the Pornic War Cemetery.
After the war it was alleged, but never substantiated, that her mother insisted her daughter’s medals be destroyed.
Desoubrie was born in Luingne, Belgium on 22 October 1922 and grew up in Tourcoing on the French border where he trained as an electrician. He is said to have spoken perfect English and unlike other double agents and collaborators working for the Germans he was not motivated by money; he was a dedicated supporter of the Third Reich although he was also well paid for his treachery.
He began working for the Gestapo in 1941 and used various cover names including Jacque Leman, Jean Masson, Pierre Boulain and Captain Jacques.
Sometime in 1941 he infiltrated a resistance group called Vérite Française (French Truth) which printed and distributed an underground newspaper and helped people escape from France and after being responsible for the arrest of 100 people he then infiltrated the Le Gualés Network and 50 people were arrested.
In November 1942 Desoubrie infiltrated the Comet Escape Line which operated in Belgium and France rescuing allied aircrews who were shot down over both countries. Members of the line escorted aircrews, referred to as parcels or packages, to neutral Spain through a network of safe houses and other members at various locations until they reached safety and Desoubrie was responsible for many arrests. Apart from a large loss of life some parts of the network had to be rebuilt with new recruits and replacement safehouses.
Using the name Jean Mason, in January 1943 Desoubrie convinced members of the Comet line he was escorting six airmen from Belgium to Paris and requested they meet him at a Paris railway station to arrange their escape to Spain, the Comet leader agreed and after sending a few members to collect the `parcels’ they were arrested.
By this time Desoubrie had discovered the identity of several members of Comet and their safehouses and further arrests based on his information almost destroyed the network. He was not suspected as a double agent and the only members of the resistance who knew of his involvement were those who had disappeared and sentence to death by the Gestapo.
In January 1944 he was responsible for the arrest of a senior leader of the Comet Line called Jean -Jacques Northomb (code name Franco), a British agent thought to be a member of MI9 Named Jacques Legrelle (code name Jerome) and after these betrayals Desoubrie started using the name Pierre Boulain.
On 7 May 1944 a Belgium woman named Michelle Dumon (code name Lily and Michou) who worked for the Comet Line discovered Desoubrie was a double agent and informed MI9 agent Albert Ancia, and he asked the French Forces of the Interior (FFI) to assassinate him. Although MI9 was later informed Desoubrie had been eliminated he was later seen, and it was assumed the FFI assassinated the wrong person.
After Desoubrie became aware the resistance in Belgium and France and MI9 had identified him as a double agent he was undeterred and continued working for the Gestapo.
After three allied airmen: American Roy Allen, New Zealander Phil Lamason and Ken Chapman who was a navigator with the RAF were picked up by members of the French Resistance they were hidden in a safehouse until arrangements could be made for their journey to Spain. In August 1944, Lamason and Chapman were arrested by the Gestapo and Desoubrie was paid 10,000 francs for each man after providing the information which led to their arrests and both airmen were sent to Buchenwald concentration camp.
After the liberation of France, Desoubrie fled to Germany but was later captured by the allies and after being found guilty in a French court was executed by firing squad on 20 December 1949 at the fort of Montrouge near Paris, but some sources claim he was executed in 1945.
A booklet which was once inside a pocket of the padding but has since been lost, bore the name of François Antoine Fauveau aged 23.
We know his profession was dairyman and was serving with the 2nd Rifle Regiment of the French army in May 1815.
According to his family this was not François but was his brother who stood in for him and died at Waterloo after being hit by a British cannon ball.
(Photo Musée de L’Armée).
Micheline Dumon (code names Lily and Michou) served with the Belgium Resistance and worked on the Comet Escape Line and her surname often appears misspelt as ‘Dumont’.
As a member of Comet, she helped allied aircrews shot down over Belgium and France evade capture and was credited for assisting 250 aircrew by guiding them through Belgium and France to neutral Spain, and is noted for being one of the most experienced and longest serving member of the escape line.
In August 1942 her father who also worked on the Comet Line was arrested by the Gestapo and deported to a concentration camp where he later died.
In 1944 the line was infiltrated by a double agent named Jacques Desoubrie a Belgium working for the Gestapo infiltrating resistance groups in Belgium and France and after finding herself on the Gestpo wanted list was forced to escape to England where she spent the remainder of the war training MI9 agents.
After the war Micheline Dumon said, “I knew a lot of people and I moved around a lot. I never stayed in one place, and so I was always alone. Also, I was lucky.”
Andree (code name Nadine), Micheline Dumon’s sister, was in charge of safehouses where aircrews were hidden until they could be moved down the line and she also prepared false identification cards and connected escapers with escorts to take them from Belgium to neutral Spain by bicycle, train and on foot. After a narrow escape from the Gestapo, she went underground and lived in a safehouse for several weeks and obtained false identity papers which said she was 15-years-old and accoding to several airmen she looked about 12 or 13 and dressed accordingly. She also spoke English and interacted with allied airmen who rarely spoke French.
In June 1943 the Comet Line was close to collapse after many arrests by the Abwehr and Gestapo and Andree Dumon took on a leadership position which she described as “A sort of odd-job woman: looking after safehouses, escorting aircrews, recruiting new agents, collecting food coupons and repairing escape routes after waves of arrests.”
By January 1944 it was too dangerous for her to remain in Brussels so she moved to Paris and then to Bayonne in southwestern France to work with Elvire de Geer who was the leader of that end of the line during which she escorted two groups of 10 allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain, and in March 1944 she was one of three Comet Line leaders who attended a meeting in Madrid with senior MI9 officers to plan their activities for D-day.
After the meeting she went to Paris and shortly after arriving was arrested by the French police and spent two nights in jail. From the time she was in police custody she behaved like a young girl and the way she was dressed supported the deception and instead of being handed to the Gestapo the police commandant released her becuase she was a child. After this close escape she found a new safehouse and continued her resistance work until France and Belgium were liberated.
Leigh ‘Paddy’ Fermor served with the Irish Guards but due to his knowledge of modern Greek history he soon came to the attention of the Greek Section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). He fought in Crete and mainland Greece during the German occupation and infiltrated Crete three times once by parachute to organise the Cretan Resistance whilst disguised as a shepherd and lived in the mountains for two years.
Fermor with SOE officer William Stanley ‘Bill’ Moss as his second in command and a small group of Cretan Resisters received orders to capture the German commander of Crete General Muller but before the start of the operation Muller was unexpectedly replaced by General Kreipe and after informing SOE they were instructed to capture Kreipe.
General Kreipe was a career officer who served at the Battle of Verdun during the Great War and during the Second World War participated in the Battle of France, the Siege of Lenigrad and after a short period working in Germany he returned to the Eastern Front. On 1 March 1944 he was appointed Commander of 22nd Air Landing Infantry Division stationed in Crete and replaced General Muller as the senior officer on the Island.
On the night of 26 April 1944 General Kreipe was driven by staff car from his headquarters in Archanes without an escort to his well-guarded Villa ‘Ariadni’ approximatley 5 km from Heraklion. Fermor and Moss dressed as German Military Police Officers waited some distance from his residence for his car to arrive.
After being flagged down by the two SOE officers the car stopped at what appeared to be a routine security check. As Moss asked the driver for his identity papers Fermor opened Keipe’s door, jumped in and threatened him with his pistol. Moss then shot the driver, got into the driving seat and quicklt drove away.
They successfully drove through 23 German checkoints before abandoning the car and with assistance from members of the resistance disappeared into the mountains. It was not long before the alarm was sounded, and the small team was being pursued across Crete by large numbers of German troops supported by a spotter aircraft, but the Crete resistance was familiar with the mountains and various caves where they could hide and eventually guided them undetected to the pickup point on the south coast where they were taken by boat to Egypt.
On 2 May 1892 Manfred Von Richthofen was born in Kleinburg near Breslau which is now part of Warsaw, Poland, and his family were influential members of the Prussian aristocracy.
At the start of World War One in 1914 Von Richthofen was serving as a cavalry officer and in 1915 he decided to transfer to the German Air Force which had been founded in 1910 and already this new branch of the Imperial Germany Army was noted for upholding the honour of Prussian military tradition.
At the age of 23 Richthofen’s mentor was German Fgher Ace Hauptmann Boelcke who was one of the most influential patrol leaders and was described as the ‘Father of Air Fighting Tactics’. Boelcke officially had 40 aerial victories but his student Manfred Von Richthofen later more than doubled this and became a legend throughout Germany and among his enemies whilst Boeleke became widely forgotten as Von Richthofen’s celebrity status as a fighter ace increasingly grew.
Richthofen was one of the first members of fighter squadron Jagdstaffel 2 in 1916 and in 1917 became the leader of Jasta 11, which later formed the larger fighter wing Jagdgeschwader 1 which became better known as the ‘flying circus’ because all the aircraft were brighly painted and by the way the fighter wing moved throughout allied areas like a travelling circus.
Manfred Von Richthofen’s red aircraft became famous and his 80 air combat victories earned him the nickname the ‘Red Baron’.
On 23 Novemeber 1916 Richthofen shot down British Fighter Ace Major Lanoe VC during a long dog fight during which Lanoe was eventually shot through the head and Richthofen immediately showed his respect by publicly describing Hawker as the ‘British Boelcke’.
Who Shot Down and Killed The Red Baron?
The RAF credited a pilot named Arthur Roy Brown who was a Canadian serving with the Royal Navy Air Service with shooting down the Red Baron but most historians agree this was not the case and Manfred Von Richthofen was killed by machine-gun fire from the ground.
As fighters pilots were taught to attack the rear of enemy aircraft the autopsy report which states the fatal bullet penetrated Richthofen’s right arm pit and exited next to the left nipple, due to the angle supports the ground fire theory.
It has also been claimed the fatal shot came from a soldier named Cedric Popkin who was an anti-aicraft gunner with the Australian 24th Machine Gun Company who fired at Richthofen on two occastions with a Vickers machine gun: first as he approached his position and then at long range to the right side of the aircraft and this second engagement supports the angle of the fatal bullet.
In 2002 it was suggested Gunner ‘Snowy’ Evans a Lewis machine gunner with the 53rd Battery, 14th Field Brigade, Royal Australian Artillery killed Richthofen, but this claim has been rejected due to the angle. Other sources suggest Gunner Robert Blue also of the 53rd Battery may have fired the fatal shot and although the Sydney council erected a plaque near his former home which states he shot down Manfred Von Richthofen the Red Baron this is also unlikely. The fact is, the person who shot down the Red Baron remains unknown.
Theories: Why did Manfred Von Richofen (Red Baron) fly dangerously close to enemy trenches?
Richthofen was a highly experinced and skilled pilot who followed the lessons from his mentor Boelcke among which was the basic rule of never flying close to enemy trenches and there is no logical explanation why he broke this rule on 21 April 1918 and was shot down.
Some historians suggest he may have been suffering from cumulative combat stress which made him fail to observe basic precautions. I find this theory quite persusasive becuase comparisons may be made with the shooting down by ground fire of British Fighter Ace ‘Mick’ Mannock VC who always warned new pilot to never fly low near German trenches but on 28 July 1918 Mannock broke his own rule and was shot down by a massive volley of ground fire from a German trench. (see further Mick Mannock the Irish Fighter Ace of WW1 an Malcher)
Other historians suggest Manfred Von Richthofen was not fit to fly after receiving a bullet wound to his head during combat on 6 July 1917 and this theory is supported by unsubstantiated accounts of his personality having changed after being wounded. The fact remains, the person who shot down and killed Manfred Von Richthofen ‘The Red Baron’ and why he broke the basic rule of never flying in range of enemy tranches may never be known.