Event photos courtesy of Carol Brown, Louisa Russell & John Crowe (more below)
Michael Alfred Raymond Trotobas was born on 20 May 1914 at No. 1 North Place in Brighton, the son of a French father and an Irish mother.
Michael’s mother died when he was only nine years old and he was sent to live in France with an aunt. His schooling was completed there and in Ireland and after drifting from job to job for several years, he joined the Middlesex Regiment of the British Army in 1933.
After war broke out, he served in northern France and, wounded, was fortunate to be evacuated from Dunkirk. Commissioned as an officer in the Manchester Regiment, he then volunteered for S.O.E. and in September 1941 was in a group of six agents parachuted into Vichy-controlled France.
After only a month he was arrested, but escaped in July 1942 and made his way back to Britain via Spain and Portugal. Two months later he again parachuted into France to create a new circuit, FARMER, in and around Lille. From May 1943, he began sabotage operations in which he personally participated.
On the morning of 27 November 1943 the enemy forced their way into his lodgings in Lille and in the subsequent shoot-out, Trotobas was killed instantly.
SOE’s submission for a Victoria Cross for Trotobas was turned down and in the post-war confusion of the organisation’s disbandment, no other British award was granted.
The exceptional exploits, courage and leadership of British SOE Agent Trotobas have long been recognised in France but not in his own country despite being recommended for the Victoria Cross. Captured on his first mission,
Trotobas led a mass break-out from Mauzac Internment Camp and eventually returned to England. He immediately volunteered to return and established and ran a resistance group around Lille and the Pas de Calais for a year.
As the Nazis closed in, he refused to leave the French men and women who had shown him complete loyalty. He paid the ultimate price, fighting to the death rather than undergo capture. As well as describing the operations of the Sylvestre-Farmer circuit, the authors record the rivalries and intrigues that sprang up culminating in betrayals and extraordinary demand for the court martial and execution of the Circuit's British second in command.
This book is a major addition to the bibliography of the SOE and French Resistance.
Brighton's Secret Agents: The Brighton & Hove Contribution to Britain's WW2 Special Operations Executive (SOE)
by Paul McCue
Winston Churchill authorised the creation of a new wartime secret service, the Special Operations Executive (SOE), with the order "And now set Europe ablaze".
On behalf of the Secret WW2 Network, an educational charity dedicated to revealing hitherto-secret operations to the current generation, Paul McCue tells a main story of four Brighton and Hove-born agents honoured with blue plaques.
He details the organisation's creation and post-war demise, its training methods and the missions of the four chief subjects. He also covers three other agents, a special duties RAF pilot and the inspiration for 'Q', the inspired 'boffin' of the James Bond books and films - all of whom had links with the city.
Some enjoyed great success, others were doomed to failure and death, but all displayed the volunteer spirit and courage that saw Britain through the darkest days of the Second World War. Their stories, largely little known, deserve to be told.