Friday, November 03, 2017

Fullbore Friday

Go ahead, call a 22-yr old woman a "girl" one more time.
They were a disparate pair. He had been taken prisoner while serving with the French army during the German offensive of 1940, but secured his repatriation as an invalid after deliberately breaking his arm with a hatchet. He made his way to England and joined the SOE. Baseden, born in Paris of a British father and French mother, was educated on the Continent and was fluent in French. She had an unusually feisty personality, an ideal qualification for dangerous work.

De St Geniès and Baseden were concerned by their inability to discover whether the previous circuit had been betrayed or simply discovered through a careless slip. De St Geniès cut all contact with French couriers, relying on Baseden’s carefully coded radio reports to London from meticulously varied sites. The circuit eventually covered a significant area of the Jura so that the Resistance had control by night of all but the main roads.

It was most unfortunate that a celebration to mark the successful receipt and secret stowage of a mass daylight drop of arms and explosives in July 1944 resulted in the death of De St Geniès as well as Baseden’s arrest.

The inner circle of the “Scholar” circuit had decided to have a celebratory supper together, choosing what they regarded as their safest house for the occasion — a cheese factory near Dôle. A German patrol arrested a “Scholar” agent near the factory because he was unaccountably carrying a radio transmitter. He knew nothing of the planned dinner, but the sergeant leading the patrol searched the factory on the off-chance of finding something there.

The wife of the caretaker was discovered at a table laid for eight, but no apparent guests, so the sergeant fired a burst from his machine-pistol through the ceiling to show he meant business. One bullet hit De St Geniès in the head and blood leaked through the ceiling, above which the party was hiding. He died at the scene and the others were arrested.

Baseden was interrogated by the Gestapo, enduring periods of solitary confinement and having her toes trodden on to persuade her to reveal her contacts in the Resistance. She was sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp, having avoided revealing any names by claiming that, as a radio operator, she was excluded from such information. From Ravensbrück she worked under guard as a farm labourer until falling ill with tuberculosis in February 1945. In the atmosphere of mounting apprehension among the camp authorities as the Allied armies approached, a fellow prisoner and former escape line organiser, Mary Lindell, secured her evacuation in a Red Cross train to Sweden, from where she was repatriated.
She passed last week after a full life.

I can't help but notice that she was a woman of exceptional pedigree.
Yvonne Jeanne Therese de Vibraye Baseden was born in 1922 the daughter of Clifford Baseden, an officer of the First World War Royal Flying Corps who crash-landed on the Count and Countess de Vibraye’s estate, was asked to stay for dinner, and then fell in love with and married their daughter. Yvonne Baseden was engaged as a bilingual shorthand typist before volunteering for the WAAF, in which she was commissioned and worked with RAF Intelligence in Brtitain until joining the SOE in May 1943.
Dad would be proud.

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