SOE Circuit Organiser Alfred Wilkinson

Alfred Wilkinson. Circuit organiser serving with the French Section SOE

Alfred Wilkinson had duel nationality British/French and was born in Paris and left his wife and young child in France to join the British Army.

Wilkinson parachuted into France on 5 April 1944 to organise the Historian circuit in the Orléans area where his wife and young child were still living, and SOE documents described it as “an area where German repressive measures had effectively checked all previous attempts to develop a resistance network. After receiving arms and other war materials by parachute Wilkinson and his Historian circuit prepared for large scale sabotage for D-day and by 6 June (D-day) the railway lines and telecommunication targets his circuit had been ordered to sabotage had been destroyed and added to the major disruption of the German military caused by other circuits.

It is known Wilkinson was captured towards the end of June at Olivet a commune in the Loiret department in north-central France and for the first fortnight was kept at the Eugéne Prison in Orléans. He was then taken to Frésnes Prison outside Paris where he was described by other SOE prisoners as looking well and Wilkinson was among a large batch of SOE agents and resistance fighters taken from Frésnes to Buchenwald concentration camp to be used as slave labour.

On 24 August Allied aircraft bombed the Gustloff armament factory outside the camp where many prisoners were forced to work. Several bombs hit the SS barracks killing 8 and injuring 300 SS soldiers and many prisoners. It was later said that in retaliation for the air raid the camp commandant Obersturmbannfuhrer Herman Pister ordered the execution of all British and French ‘terrorists.’

Seven prisoners were executed on 14 September and on 5 October more prisoners including Alfred Wilkinson were executed and according to a post-war investigation before being hung the men stood rigidly to attention whilst shouting ‘long live France. Long live England.’

Notorious Hermann Pister. Image taken after being arrested by American forces.

After the war Pister was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death but died of a heart attack before being hung.