Jack Agazarian: SOE wireless operator

Jack Agazarian

The capture and execution of Jack Agazarian is complex, surrounded by conspiracy theories; is beyond the scope of this brief essay and is covered in great detail in my forthcoming book.

Jack Agazarian was the second of six children of an Armenian father and French mother and was a British citizen when he joined SOE on 30 May 1942. He arrived in France by parachute on the night of 29 December 1942 and worked as the wireless operator for the Physician circuit operating in Paris. Physician is sometimes wrongly called Prosper: Prosper was the code name of its circuit leader Francis Suttill and to avoid confusion the circuit is sometimes referred to as Physician/Prosper.

During the six months Agazarian was in France he maintained contact with London and arranged weapons and sabotage stores to be dropped by parachute; received orders and arrange the arrival of other agents by parachute and air landings by Lysander aircraft.

Lysander pilots needed a specially trained agent on the ground called an air movements officer who ensured the field was suitable for the technical specification of the aircraft and commanded members of the resistance responsible for laying out signal lamps in a recognised pattern indicating wind direction and where the aircraft needed to land, and the local air movement officer was an agent named Henri Déricourt.

It is known Jack Agazarian and other agents suspected Déricourt of being a double or even a triple agent working for the Gestapo and Abwehr and after Agazarian returned to London he reported his suspicions.

Henri Déricourt. Photograph thought to have been taken during his trial.

Agazarian was on leave when he was asked if he would volunteer to return to France with Nicholas Boddington to investigate his claims and it later transpired Boddington was a pre-war friend of Déricourt and recommended Déricourt to SOE. Agazarian arrived in France on the night of 22 July 1943 and after meeting Boddington there is no explanation why Agazarian volunteered to visit Déricourt’s safe house after saying it was dangerous and after arriving was arrested by the SD.

It is known Jack Agazarian spent time at the SD Paris headquarters at Avenue Foch and Fresnes Prison before being deported to Flossenburg Concentration camp in Bavaria, Germany where he was executed.  After the war Déricourt was tried in a French court for treason but was not convicted after Boddington gave evidence for the defence, and after an investigation by MI5 Boddington was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Henri Déricourt returned to his flying career and is thought to have been transporting illegal opium throughout Asia. On 21 November 1962 Déricourt took off from Vientiane, Laos with a load of gold and four passengers and after the aircraft crashed his body was never recovered. In 1986 Colonel Morris Buckmaster, the former commanding officer of SOE French Section, was asked whether Henri Déricourt was a German agent and he replied “Nobody knows. He’s dead and the truth died with him.”  

Alan Malcher.

Author: Alan Malcher

Military historian and defence commentator

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