Yvonne Baseden, the secret service, Churchill

Yvonne Baseden died on October 28 at the age of 95 years.
© DR


She was one of the “spies French Churchill”, as he called the historian of German Monika Siedentopf in Dropped in enemy land.
Yvonne Baseden, to which the Times has paid tribute, died on 28 October. Born in Paris in 1922 to an English father and a French mother, she was parachuted into France during the Second world War to organize the Resistance in the Jura mountains, as a member of the SOE, the spy service created by the “Old Lion”. A journey out of the ordinary.

Little known to the general public, Yvonne Baseden has never written his memoirs, and was involved in the few documentaries (including Robert and shadows of Jean-Marie Barrier, 2005). Yet, she has survived the worst : the arrest, torture, deportation to a concentration camp. It must not, its survival as… his / her anonymity.

She is 15 years of age when his parents, frequent travelers, eventually put their suitcases in London, after a long journey through Europe (France, Belgium, Italy, etc). On June 18, 1940, at the age of 19, Yvonne Baseden hears the call of general de Gaulle and request to engage in the free France, to which it will be denied on the ground that his father is british. She then engages in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force as an office worker. She quickly climbed up the ranks and became sub-lieutenant (Assistant Section Officer) in December 1941 and then as officer in October 1942. Transferred to the information service of the Royal Air Force, it stands out especially during interrogation of the airmen by the germans.

Odette and Lucien

The following year, in may 1943, she was assigned to the SOE (Special Operations Executive, or Directorate of special operations), created in July 1940 by Winston Churchill and disbanded on 30 June 1946. Often dubbed “the secret army of Churchill”, the SOE is responsible for supporting various european networks of Resistance. The recruitment of women will not be authorized until 1942. Yvonne Baseden, which receives the code name “Odette”, following its arrival training in operating radio.

Yvonne Baseden is to be parachuted in the Landes, not far from Mont-de-Marsan, in the night of 17 to 18 march 1944. With Gonzague Saint-Geniès, alias “Lucien”, she is in charge of the mission “Scholar” in the Jura, which aims to federate and coordinate the different maquis, and went to the Dole as an operator radio. She is also responsible for the parachute drop of arms from England.

“The Germans did not know that I was an agent”

On 26 June 1944, members of the network Scholar meet in a cheese factory, a Dole, called the House of orphans, after the success of a “drop massive arms”
.While the party is in full swing, a resistance fighter, in charge of the suitcase-radio Odette, is stopped at a dam near. Thinking that its leaders had left the place of rendezvous for a long time, it ends up giving the address of the refuge to Feldgendarmes (military police German), who discover a table, but… no guest. One of the police officers, attracted by a noise coming from the attic, pulls the ceiling. Drops of blood glisten between the boards. Most of the members of the network, which were hidden in the attic, are then stopped, and onlookers present in the cheese.

Arrested with his comrades, Yvonne Baseden is complete with false papers under the identity of “Jane Bernier”. Feigning incomprehension, she will be imprisoned, and tortured for long months, without ever revealing his name or deliver its network. The Germans have never known that she was a member of the SOE. On August 25, 1944, she is imprisoned in Saarbrücken and then deported on September 4, 1944, the concentration camp of Ravensbrück, at the age of 23 years. She wrote after the war : “The Germans did not know that I was an agent. I had just been raflée with a bunch of other and I had on me or documents or anything. The fact that there has been no document saved my life.” She will survive and will join England in the spring of 1945, where she will spend nine months in a sanatorium.

After the war, Yvonne Baseden accompanied her husband in Rhodesia (Zambia) and works as attached to a commercial. Married in 1948, and a widow in 1966, she married Anthony Burney, in his second marriage. She received the Legion of honour in 1996 and passed away, October 28, at the age of 95 years.

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