On 14 February 1943 General de Gaulle awarded Jean Moulin the Cross of Liberation during a private ceremony at De Gaulle’s home in Hampstead London.
Three months later, after returning to France by parachute, Jean Moulin was captured and tortured for three weeks by SD chief Klaus Barbie (Butcher of Lyon). Moulin attempted to commit suicide by cutting his throat but after being found collapsed in his cell was given medical treatment and survived. As a result of the injuries suffered during torture Jean Moulin died on 8 July 1943 whilst being transported by train to Germany.
In 1941, dates vary according to sources, three PWE agents arrived in France and among them was Henri Le Chêne (aka Victor) who was later joined by Marie Thérése (aka Adele) to work as his courier and also help run their underground newspaper and his brother Pierre, who was a wireless operator, arrived by parachute near Loches to provide a wireless link to London for his brother who was running a circuit called Plane and to assist Edward Zeff (SOE) the wireless operator working for a circuit called Spruce.
For over seven months Pierre Le Chêne (aka Grégoire) was constantly on the move to avoid his transmissions being pinpointed by direction finders when sometime in November 1942 two wireless operators were arrested and after being the only wireless operator in the area, he became first on the German wanted list.
It is believed Pierre Le Chêne broke the cardinal rule of never transmitting for more than twenty-minutes, his location was found by direction finders and was captured on 0n 9 December 1942 whilst still sending messages to London.
Pierre Le Chêne was the first agent to be tortured for information by the infamous Klaus Barbie the head of the SD in Lyon who became known as the Butcher of Lyon because of his brutal reputation of personally torturing adults and children in the SD cells he called the ‘Gestapo Kitchen’. During Barbie’s trial after the war several witnesses said it was not uncommon for prisoners to be tortured for nine days and the age of these witnesses at the time of their torture were between 13 to 93.
After Pierre Le Chêne had been arrested and tortured at Hôtel Terminus in Lyon which had been taken over by the SD as their regional headquarters other agents and members of the resistance Le Chêne knew were not added to the SD wanted list and the only plausible explanation is Barbie failed to break him.
Pierre Le Chêne was later transported to Mauthausen Concentration camp in Upper Austria and by the time the camp was liberated by American troops on 6 May 1945 was suffering from typhoid, malnutrition and was close to death.
Luftwaffe tunic worn by Le Chêne.
Pierre Le Chêne was quickly dressed in whatever clothes were found which happened to be a Luftwaffe desert tunic with the bottom of the left sleeve shredded after its original owner suffered a life threatening injury and was then flown to England. After receiving extensive medical treatment Pierre Le Chêne survived.