Intelligence

Maurice de Cheveigné, Free France radio operator and regional military representative in the northern zone,  was parachuted into France:

”France was divided into military regions. Raymond Fassin was regional military representative for Region A, in other words the departments of Pas-de-Calais, Nord, Somme, Aisne and Seine-Inférieure. His code name at the BCRA was Piquier.

The RMR’s mission consisted of co-ordinating the Fighting French services and the various Resistance movements in his region, in particular in preparation for D-Day.

We jumped on the night of 15 to 16 September 1943. Two shadows came near the parachute and uttered the password. I answered. Fassin left for Lille right away. Meanwhile, we stayed at the Dorbons. We went into the forest to ‘play’ at being Robin Hood.

On 10 October I was ready at last. Deshayes [air operations director in the north] gave me a radio, two transmitting plans and four telegrams to send. I wrote another announcing my safe arrival and encoded it. I went out into the garden, set up my antenna under an apple tree, adjusted my transmitter and started listening for the time of the next appointment. The station was there. I called them, they heard me. She was a good operator.

London was waiting for the radio contact to launch air operations. On the night of 17 to 18 October 1943 we went to Happegardes to pick up a parachute drop. Breakfast was a treat: English cigarettes, real coffee, chocolate. Plus two radio sets, machine guns and grenades.

There were effective protection teams and an almost countless number of locations. I’ve seldom worked in such good conditions.

Lieutenant Michel Gries [parachuted from London on the same day], a sabotage instructor, was also very busy. He taught us the subtleties of explosives and how to use all kinds of nasty hardware to derail trains and topple electric pylons. One device put on a locomotive piston did wonders. Another placed on an electric motor made it melt. Gries had something for everything.

Dr Robert’s organisation produced intelligence: sketches, photos, stories. A V2 base under construction in Bois-l'Evêque, radars in Vandegies, the fuel dump in Herbignies. The daughter of the forest ranger at Mormal Forest gave us a description of the Bismarck munitions dump, Locquignol. I encoded what could be sent by radio. The rest was picked up by planes and left by air mail.

It was in December and night fell early. We hid in the hedges along the road and waited. There he was. Somebody arrived on a bicycle, without a light of course because of the blackout. An electric torch went on. Shit! It was a kraut, which wasn’t on the programme. The revelation of our presence must have scared him, judging by his sudden loss of balance. But he didn’t fall off. He vanished into the night. Our target did not appear. We were better off leaving before the German came back with his pals. Freezing cold, we went home.”

[Maurice de Cheveigné and Raymond Fassin would be deported. Fassin would not come back.]

Maurice de Cheveigné in Radio Libre