Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Parachuting in France as a Spy
Lise Marie Jenette de Baissac and Andree Borrel had the distinction of being the first two SOE women agents parachuted into France during WWII. Their experiences differed tremendously, and only Lise lived to tell the tale.
Born on May 11, 1905 in Mauritius, British citizen Lise was of French descent. The third of three children who were taught French by their parents, she moved with her family to Paris in 1919. Eleven years later, Paris was occupied by the Germans, and the de Baissacs escaped. Lise and her brother, Claude, received help from the American Consulate and were able to make it to London where she secured a job with The Daily Sketch. Soon thereafter she was recruited by the Special Operations Executive. After extensive training, she began her first mission on September 24, 1942 – go to France to set up her own circuit and establish a safe house for new agents.
Settling in the Loire Valley area, she claimed to be a destitute Parisian widow who was an amateur archaeologist. This cover allowed her to cycle around the area to find potential parachute drop zones and landing sites for RAF squadrons. Bold as brass, she moved into the house next door to the Gestapo headquarters. Nine months later, her network collapsed, and she was flown back to England. However, Andree Borrel was not so lucky. She was one of several members arrested.
Born in 1919, Andree dropped out of school and moved to Paris to learn the dressmaking trade. She worked for several shops through the years, but when the war begin in 1939, she knew she had to do her part. She and her mother moved to Toulon and trained with the Red Cross. On a fateful day in July 1941, Andree met Maurice Dufour, a resistance fighter. They became lovers and partners. She helped him set up a safe house near the Pyrenees Mountains.
Five months later, the network was betrayed, and Andree and Maurice fled for their lives. Arriving in London in April 1942, she joined the SOE in May, never to see Maurice again. At the conclusion of her training, she parachuted into France near the village of Boisrenard with Lise. Code named Denise, Andree’s mission was to be a courier for a new circuit in Paris. Operations went well until June 24, 1943 when double agent Henri Dericourt betrayed the group.
Andree was initially incarcerated in Fresnes prison, notorious for its horrific conditions and brutal treatment of its prisoners. The following years she was moved to the extermination camp at Natzweiler-Struthof. One of four agents classified under the “Nacht and Nable” directive (night and fog) which meant they were to disappear without a trace, She was executed and her body cremated in one of the ovens.
Two women of valor. Two different outcomes. Both to be remembered.
A freelance writer for over ten years, Linda Shenton Matchett is the author of Love's Harvest, Love Found in Sherwood Forest, and On the Rails. Under Fire, the first book in her trilogy about WWII war correspondent/amateur sleuth Ruth Brown is now available at eLectio Publishing , Amazon, or your favorite independent bookstore. Visit Linda at www.LindaShentonMatchett.com.