Edgard Potier MI9 Escape Line Organiser in Belgium and France

edgard poiter

Edgard Potier was a Belgium air force officer who organised the MI9 escape line known in Belgium as Mission Martin and in France was called the Possum Line.

After a Lancaster bomber was shot down over Belgium the two surviving crew members were rescued by Edgard Potier (cover name Raymond) who took the airmen across Belgium to remote farmland close to the Belgium-French border where a night pickup by Lysander aircraft had been arranged.

The ‘pickup’ pilot was Hugh Verity of No. 161 Special Duty Squadron RAF who successfully picked up the two escapers and returned them to England.

After the war Verity said: “Raymond {Edgard Potier} did a number of operations for our evading crews… He was eventually betrayed and captured and ruthlessly tortured to get information from him… When it got to the point when he had one eye gouged out by his interrogators, he couldn’t stand any more. He jumped from a window and killed himself.

Alan Malcher

Group Captain Bill Randle (RAF) MBE, OBE, DFM, AFC. AM

GR Cpt Bill Randell MBE OBE CBE DFM AFC AM

On the night of 16 September 1942 Wellington bomber pilot, Bill Randle, took off on his 19th operation.

Whilst crossing the Dutch coast at 21,000 feet the Wellington was hit by anti-aircraft fire but despite the damage Randle continued to the target where they again came under intense ground fire.

After bombing the target in Essen Germany, the Wellington was hit by flak and the port engine failed and as the aircraft became increasingly difficult to control and was quickly losing height Randle ordered the crew to bailout.

Randle landed in a tree near the German-Belgium border and after freeing himself from the tangled parachute he headed for the coast and travelled by night and hid during the day. After coming across a patriotic farmer, he was warned the coast was heavily defended so decided to make his way south.

During a train journey to Namur, he realised without identity papers he was unlikely to escape so decided to walk towards France.

Randle was then fortunate to come across an elderly man who was also a patriot who arranged for him to be hidden by monks for ten days. It was said Randle was passed to the Belgium Resistance; in fact, he was passed to the Comet Escape line which for security reasons was separate from the Resistance.

After being interrogated to ensure he was not a German infiltrator and his story confirmed by London through their wireless link Randle was given clothes and false identity papers identifying him as a Flemish commercial traveller. Guides then took him to Brussels where he was reunited with two of his crew who were also being helped by members of Comet.

comete andree de jongh

The crew were kept in a safehouse before the escape line organiser 26-year-old Andree de Jongh (cover name Dedee) escorted them to Paris. After two days in a Paris safehouse a young girl escorted them by train to St Jean de Luz where they dressed as Basque farm labourers. Dedee     then re-joined the airmen and with a local guide they quietly walked along narrow forest paths during the night whilst avoiding German patrols. After crossing the river Bidassoa into Spain Dedee briefly left the group and returned with a taxi and took them to the British consul in San Sebastian.

Randle had been on the run for 55 days; Dedee was eventually betrayed but survived Ravensbrûck concentration camp and after the war was awarded the GM (George Medal) for her work on the escape line during which she was responsible for rescuing over 300 allied air crews.

Alan Malcher

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

marks

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