Libre Résistance conference: more Secret WW2 revelations in Paris
December 6, 2019
Several members of The Secret WW2 Learning Network are also members of the Paris-based association Libre Résistance (LR) which keeps alive in France the history of French Section, SOE.
Our Co-Founder, Martyn Cox, is a committee member of LR, as is Nick Fox, Friend of The Secret WW2 Learning Network. Martyn was unable to attend this year's Libre Résistance conference, which took place at the Ecole Militaire in Paris.
Nick Fox was there, and joined by a small Network group from the UK that included David Brown, Carol Brown, Paul McCue and Ray Windmill - and from New York, Humera Afridi and her son, Armaan.
The 2019 conference topic was the fall of SOE's Prosper circuit of Major Francis Suttill in 1943, and the attendees were treated to a dual language audio-visual presentation by his son - also Francis Suttill - whose book on Prosper is now also available in French.
Libre Résistance also organises a two-day event each May at the F Section memorial at Valençay in the Indre département. As its other annual event, this Paris 'colloque' in late November also served as an enjoyable rendezvous for many old and new friends including, notably, several members of the families of French and Franco-Maurician agents of F Section.
On a whistle stop tour of Paris before and after the conference, the Network group visited the Hotel Lutetia, former HQ of Abwehr counter-intelligence, and toured sites relating to Noor Inayat-Khan, France Antelme, Francis Suttill, Andrée Borrel and Edward Wilkinson.
Some of the interest in visiting the site of the café (the Café du Globe in the boulevard de Strasbourg) where Teddy Wilkinson was arrested by the Gestapo waned on reaching the present-day Lidl in the premises. But the prices were very good ...
A final discovery, close to the group's own hotel, was the former 2* Hotel Cécil, which was F Section's Paris office from September 1944 and to where agents reported after emerging from the field in liberated France.
Now renovated to the 5* standard of the 'Hôtels de Charme' group, it has been renamed the Hôtel de Nell. If you can afford it, there's probably no other property in Paris that saw so many F Section agents.
Photos: Our thanks to Carol Brown, Titania Redon, Bill Beauclerk and Fabrice Dury
Image of the Ecole Miltaire courtesy of Krzysztof Mizera
PROSPER by Francis J. Suttill
In June 1943, SOE’s Prosper resistance circuit in France led by Major Francis Suttill collapsed very suddenly. Was it deliberately betrayed by the British as part of a deception plan to make the Germans think an invasion was imminent? Was it betrayed by MI6 out of jealousy? Did Churchill meet Prosper and deliberately mislead him? These are some of the stories that have developed since the war as survivors and others struggled to explain the sudden collapse of this circuit, the biggest in France at the time.
PROSPER by Major Suttill’s son meticulously traces what actually happened. It provides one of the most detailed records of the organisation and work of a resistance circuit ever published. The story that emerges shows the enormous risks faced by those who resisted and what their bravery enabled them to achieve.