The German wireless deception leading to the deaths of three SOE agents sent to France.

France AntelmeLionel leeMadeleineDamerment

On the night of 28/29 February 1944, SOE agents France Antelme on his third mission to France, wireless operator Lionel Lee and Madeleine Damerment arrived by parachute near the city of Chartres to start a clandestine circuit called Bricklayer.

It is now believed sometime in late 1943 Canadian agents Frank Pickersgill and Ken Macalister had been arrested during which their wireless and codes were found, and a German operator started playing back their set and because the correct codes were being used no suspicion was raised in London. It was the Gestapo, not the Canadian agents who requested these agents be sent and consequently were dropped to the waiting Germans.

From the post war investigation, we see Antelme was furious and began fighting the Gestapo officers before eventually being restrained and the three agents were taken to Avenue Foch, Gestapo Paris HQ where Antelme refused to talk whilst being tortured. Antelme and Lee are recorded as being executed at Gross Rosen Concentration Camp in Lower Silesia and Madeleine Damerment along with three other female SOE agents were transported to Dachau in Germany where they were forced to kneel before being shot through the base of their necks. Canadian agents Pickersgill and Macalister along with several other SOE agents were executed by slow strangulation with piano wire suspended from hooks in the crematorium at Buchenwald concentration camp sometime in February 1944.

Also see SOE Agents Frank Pickersgill and Ken Macalister    Canadian SOE Agents Frank Pickersgill and Ken Macalister – Alan Malcher

Alan Malcher

SOE Wireless Station in England

Home station SOE Alan Malcher

British Homefront during WW2. Home Station was the name given to the wireless station in England which maintained contact with SOE agents throughout occupied Europe. Over 500 people, mainly women, worked at the station and these wireless operators were often the first to suspected there was something wrong: the agent under their charge was working under stress or their wireless set was being used by a German operator. Aware enemy forces were attempting to find their agents through direction finders these wireless operators ensured their agents did not stay too long on the air and did not ask them to repeat unreadable messages. No date (IWM)

Alan Malcher military historian

Leo Marks head of SOE Codes and Cyphers


Left: Leo Marks (24 September 1920 to 15 January 2001) the head of SOE’s codes and cyphers based at Michael House Baker Street, London. Right: his adversary in the Netherlands Abwehr (German Military Intelligence) Lieutenant Colonel Herman Giskes who was responsible for the wireless deception resulting in many SOE agents from the Dutch Section and members of the resistance being captured and executed. People who new Marks said his brain was wired differently and could workout complex problems and it was Marks who discovered the Abwehr wireless deception alternatively called the ‘wireless game’ and ‘Englandspiel’ (England Game). (Photos IWM)

Further reading    Dutch Resistance 1941-43: SOE’s Greatest Disaster in occupied Europe – Alan Malcher

Alan Malcher military historian

Sergeant Hugo Bleicher of the Abwehr: responsible for crushing resistance in France.

Hugo Bleicher. Alan Malcher SOE

Hugo Bleicher was a sergeant with the Abwehr stationed in France. Despite his rank Bleicher was responsible for crushing resistance throughout France and due to his ruthless approach and high success rate was supported by senior officers in the Abwehr. SOE agents and members of the resistance who were tracked down and arrested by Bleicher were handed to the Gestapo and were tortured for information, eventually executed or sent to concentration camps.

Bleicher used the cover names Colonel Henri, Jean Verbeck and Jean Castel. After the war Bleicher insisted he was not aware the prisoners he handed to the Gestapo would be tortured and executed but Colonel Maurice Buckmaster who was the Commanding Officer of SOE’s French Section rejected this claim and accused him of being an arrogant upstart and a war criminal. Hugo Bleicher also gave evidence against former members of the Abwehr and until his death in 1982 Bleicher ran a tobacconist in Tettnang, Germany.  (Photo IWM)

Alan Malcher military historian