Death of Heinrich Himmler: Himmler’s Missing Brain!

What happened to Himmler’s remains?

Dr. Mark Felton is a well-known British historian, the author of 22 non-fiction books, including bestsellers ‘Zero Night’ and ‘Castle of the Eagles’, both currently being developed into movies in Hollywood. In addition to writing, Mark also appears regularly in television documentaries around the world, including on The History Channel, Netflix, National Geographic, Quest, American Heroes Channel and RMC Decouverte. His books have formed the background to several TV and radio documentaries.

Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler: Attempting to escape British forces.

In this second episode, we follow Himmler as he goes on the run, heading south through the British occupation zone until his capture and identification by British forces.

Dr. Mark Felton is a well-known British historian, the author of 22 non-fiction books, including bestsellers ‘Zero Night’ and ‘Castle of the Eagles’, both currently being developed into movies in Hollywood. In addition to writing, Mark also appears regularly in television documentaries around the world, including on The History Channel, Netflix, National Geographic, Quest, American Heroes Channel and RMC Decouverte. His books have formed the background to several TV and radio documentaries.

Cicely Lefort: SOE Courier in Occupied France

Cicely Lefort sometimes wrongly spelt Cecily

Cicely Lefort passed through the SOE training schools towards the end of 1942 and was described by the training team as “Being very lady like and very English in spite of her French background.” Lefort was born in London and married a Frenchman in 1925, they lived in Brittany and escaped to England shortly before the occupation.

Using the field name ‘Alice’ Lefort arrived near Tours by RAF Lysander of 161 Special Duty Squadron on the night of 16 June 1943 to join the Jockey circuit operating in south-east France.

On 15 September 1943 Lefort was at a safehouse being used by Raymond Daujat, the leader of the local resistance operating in the Montélimar area along with Pierre Reynaud, a sabotage instructor working for the Jockey circuit, and the two men were in the garden when the Gestapo raided the property. Daujat and Raynaud manged to escape but after finding the safehouse surrounded by German troops Lefort hid in the cellar and was eventually caught.

It was later said the only incriminating evidence found on her was a piece of paper which she could not explain.

Lefort was taken to the Gestapo prison in Lyon before being sent to Frésnes Prison and was eventually transported to Ravensbrûck Concentration camp. According to Maurice Buckmaster, the commanding officer of F Section, “Although severely interrogated and ill-treated she gave no vital information away and requested she be awarded the military OBE.”

After almost a year of hard labour Lefort become very ill and eventually could not stand during the daily role call during which the women were often forced to stand for seven hours each day and many collapsed and died from exhaustion. It was later stated that more than 100 women a day died from illness, exhaustion or were executed.

After Lefort was unable to work she was selected for execution and it was later claimed before she was executed she received a letter from her husband requesting a divorce but this is unlikely because prisoners did not receive letters and nobody would have known she was at Ravensbrûck. However, if she did receive this letter it mostly likely arrived by Lysander before she was captured because there are several accounts of agents receiving letters from home after being censored by HQ.

The date of her death is not known and it is believed Cicely Lefort was among a group of women sent to the gas chambers.

Alan Malcher.

Operation Josephine B: Sabotage of Pessac Power Station in France. June 1941

One of the transformers destroyed during the attack (German Federal Archives)

In May 1941 the Special Operations Executive (SOE) received a request to sabotage the power station in Passaic near Bordeaux but the French Section had no agents available: most had already been deployed to France on various operations and others were still being trained at the school for advanced industrial sabotage in Hertfordshire. SOE HQ then approached the Polish Section (EU/P) which came under the jurisdiction of the Polish Government in Exile in London, and after agreeing to undertake the mission six Polish volunteers boarded a converted Whitley bomber of No.138 Special Duty Squadron at RAF Tempsford to infiltrate France by parachute.

Shortly after entering French air space the aircraft suffered an electrical fault which caused their container loaded with weapons and explosives to be jettisoned over the Loir and were forced to abandon their mission and return to England. Unbeknown to the aircrew the electrical fault was far more serious than first thought and eventually caused the aircraft to crash land and catch fire at RAF Tempsford: all the crew were either killed or injured and the six Polish agents suffered serious burns.

SOE HQ then asked RF Section (the Free French equivalent to SOE under General de Gaulle) whether they were willing to attack the power station and after de Gaulle agreed, on the night of 11-12 May 1941 three agents from RF Section, J Forman, Raymond Cobard and André Vernier (aka Jacques Leblanc) successfully infiltrated France by parachute.

After hiding their weapons and explosives the team reconnoitred the power station: there was a high-tension cable very close to the top of a 9-foot wall they needed to climb over and it appeared there was a large number of German and Italian soldiers protecting the power station. They also failed to obtain the bicycles they intended using for the getaway so decided to postpone the attack.

Before leaving England Forman was given the Paris address of an RF agent called Joêl Letac who remained in France after a failed mission called Operation Savanna, the elimination of Luftwaffe Pathfinder crews whilst they travelled by coach to their airfield, and after meeting Forman Letac encouraged him to continue the mission and the following day Letac travelled with the sabotage team to the power station. After the old lorry they obtained broke down they continued the remainder of the journey on stolen bicycles and eventually recovered the equipment they had buried around 100 yards from the power station.

On the night of 7-8 June 1941 during pitched darkness due to the blackout Forman climbed the perimeter wall and crawled under the high-tension cable which was dangerously close. After ensuring he could not be seen by the guards Forman entered the compound and opened a side door, the rest of the team entered the grounds of the power station and then sprinted across open ground to the main building.

In less than thirty minutes the team placed magnetic incendiary devices on eight large electricity transformers and then made their getaway on the stolen bicycles. It has been said the explosions were so violent flames rose high into the air and illuminated the entire area and searchlights started probing the sky for bombers.

Seven of the transformers were destroyed and this seriously disrupted the Bordeaux submarine base, numerous factories used to supply the German military were forced to stop production for several weeks. The electricity grid from another region was diverted but the overload caused more damage and all electric trains in south western France had to be replaced with steam locomotives, and all the transformer oil in France was used during the repairs.

Some writers claim the team was picked up by a RAF Lysander of 161 Special Duty Squadron, but this was not the case. The team arrived in France with one million francs (said to be about £1,400 in 1941 and roughly £71,000 in 2021) and the money was unaccountable! Instead of requesting an extraction they remained in France for a further two months and according to historian MRD Foot “They left behind them broken glass and broken hearts” before escaping to England via neutral Spain. Before they crossed the frontier Cabard was captured but later escaped and returned to England.

Kings Coronation: A few notes from my day.

Military banter before leaving the house.

Despite the banter the military is one large team based on mutual respect and support. BZ to the Royal Navy Sailor who came to the assistance of this Guardsman.

I would like to take this opportunity of thank Tony and Sue Millard of the Clarence Pub, West Kensington for their many years of charitable work supporting veterans. On Coronation Day the Millard’s and their staff did splendid work celebrating the Crowing of Charles III.

Tony and Sue Millard.

HMS Sheffield (D80)

HMS Sheffield.

On this day 4 May 1982 HMS Sheffield was sunk during the Falklands War.
The 20 men who died in alphabetical order:
Lt Cdr David Balfour
POMEM(M) David Briggs, who was awarded a posthumous DSM
CA Darryl Cope
WEA Anthony Eggington
Sub Lt Richard Emly
POCk Robert Fagan
Ck Neil Goodall
Laundryman Lai Chi Keung
LMEM(M) Allan Knowles
LCk Tony Marshall
POWEM Anthony Norman
Ck David Osborne
WEA1 Kevin Sullivan
Ck Andrew Swallow
Act CWEM(N) Michael Till
WEMN2 Barry Wallis
LCk Adrian Wellstead
MAA Brian Welsh
Ck Kevin Williams
Lt Cdr John Woodhead, who was awarded a posthumous DSC.
There was one further Royal Navy fatality on 4 May.

Alan Malcher 4 May 2023

Egon Berliner: SOE X Section (Austria)

Egon Berliner

22-year-old Egon Berliner was born in Austria on 9 May 1923 to a Jewish family and in 1938 was involved in a fight with the Hitler Youth and was chased by the SS for two hours before managing to escape. In 1939 he arrived at his family flat, and the porter warned him two Gestapo officers were waiting for him, Berliner then escaped to England and was recruited by SOE in May 1943.

 After passing selection and training Berliner was asked whether he was willing to volunteer for a mission to contact a communist group in Innsbruck, Austria and determine whether they could be developed into a resistance group, though SOE in London considered it unlikely they would risk opposing the Nazi authorities it was decided to send one exploratory agent and on the night of 28-29 July 1944 Berliner was dropped by parachute into southern Tyrol to make his way to Innsbruck. After contacting the communists SOE doubts were correct and Berliner made his way to the allied lines in southern Italy.

    He later volunteered to return to Austria and discover whether a Social Democrat Group could be transformed into a resistance movement and after they refused he distance himself from everyone he had contacted and travelled to the Koralpe (Koralm) mountain range in southern Austria and after being denounced by a member of the group was arrested by the Gestapo whilst attempting to cross the River Drave to Yugoslavia in early April 1945.

Berliner was taken to the Gestapo prison in Gratz where he was tortured for two hours and suffered more brutal treatment for being a Jew before being thrown into a condemned cell with two other prisoners. At 20:30hrs on Tuesday 4 April 1945 Gestapo SS -Obersturmführer Herz of the Graz Gestapo entered the cell and read out the names of those to be executed, Berliner and other men were then put into the back of a lorry to be taken to the SS barracks in Wetzelsdorf.

After the war captured Gestapo officers claimed the lorry received a direct hit from an allied aircraft and all the prisoners were killed but a subsequent investigation discovered they were executed by the SS.  

Alan Malcher

Philip Amphlett: SOE Operation Scullion II

Philip Amphlett

23-year-old Philip Amphlett was recruited from No.2 Commando, but his SOE training report said he was unsuitable as a clandestine agent and was better suited for direct action and parachuted into France on 16 August 1943 with a small team as part of Operation Scullion II after a similar operation (Scullion I) had failed. The team was sent to sabotage a distillation plant near Autun, France that was making synthetic oil but after reaching the target their demolition charges caused little damage.

Amphlett was last seen in Dijon on 23 August 1943 whilst making his way to an extraction point to escape from France and nothing more was heard from him. Over a year later it was discovered Amphlett had been captured and after being interrogated by the Gestapo was transported to Flossenburg Concentration Camp where he was executed,

In October 1945 Vera Atkins, SOE French Section intelligence officer who after the war went on a personal crusade to track down missing members of her section, wrote to his father saying ‘his son had shown exemplary courage and an uncompromising attitude towards his jailers’. Philip Amphlett has no known grave.

Alan Malcher

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.