Harold Cole - Escape Line Courier
This page updated 08 Oct 2017
In 1941, Harold 'Paul' Cole was the Organisation's man in Lille and from late 1940 his job had been to collect escapers and evaders, and later to escort them to Marseille. As a civilian Cole had been a petty criminal and con-artist, and in the Royal Engineers he was a thief and deserter, but as a courier he was almost perfect - confident, audacious and very successful - until the day he was exposed and accused of embezzlement.
Much has been written about the Harold Cole (mostly with the benefit of hindsight and often by people who never knew him) and how he was a traitor who betrayed a hundred or more escape line workers. Unfortunately the facts do not support this view. To paraphrase Arthur Fraser, one of his 'parcels' in 1941, I shall never fully understand how, why or when Paul Cole defected to the enemy, but in so far as it concerned my father and other evaders, he served them well.
Part of the myth surrounding Cole comes from a much quoted statement by Airey Neave in his 1969 book "Saturday at MI9" where he says "Of the 500 or more (helpers) who died in the cause, at least 150 people, of all ages, were betrayed by the Englishman Harold Cole ..." completely ignoring the fact that the sentence actually continues " ... and Belgian and French traitors who sold themselves to the Gestapo." Recent examples of the continuation of this myth include describing Cole as "a man who did irreparable harm to some of the escape lines resulting in the execution of many patriots before he was gunned down by the Maquis" and as someone who " ... infiltrated the Pat Line ... but was now working for the Gestapo." Both statements (which are complete rubbish) were written for a respected publication by two regularly consulted escape and evasion 'experts' in 2013. The myth was further perpetuated in an episode of the 2017 television program "Freedom Trails" where the source was again one of those same experts.
I have used contemporary reports made before his expulsion from the Organisation, and interviews from others with no obvious interest in either protecting or condemning Cole, together with information from Cole's own interviews with Peter Hope in 1945, to recount his accomplishments as a courier.
On 10 May 1940, thirty-four year old 1877989 Sgt Harold Cole was being held under guard in a horse box at the army depot of Le Croise Laroche (about two kilometres north-east of La Madeleine, on the outskirts of Lille) for theft. According to his statement to Peter Hope, when the German offensive began, he was "allowed to escape" and after failing to find his RE unit in Belgium, returned to Lille. He was soon recognised as a soldier away from his unit and (ironically enough) ordered to guard his old depot at Le Croise Laroche and prevent its contents from being stolen. He was still there when the Germans arrived on 20 May and he was taken prisoner. Cole was taken into Lille and joined a column of prisoners but soon escaped near Namur. He went back to Madeleine Deram (who he described as his mistress) at Loison and she arranged to have Francois Duprez, who worked at the town hall, provide an identity card in the name of Paul Delobel. Duprez also arranged a requisitioned house at 14 rue de la Gare, La Madeleine which was then registered in Mme Deram's name. They stayed there, along with Mme Deram's young son, until the house owner returned.
Sgt J W Phillips (283) was a 54 Squadron Spitfire pilot shot down by Flak near Calais 24 May 1940. He came down near Cap Gris Nez with a broken leg. After six weeks in the RAMC run hospital at Camiers, the hospital was evacuated, allegedly after leaflets were dropped by the RAF saying the area was due to be bombed, and he was transferred to the Faculté Jeanne d'Arc in Lille. On 27 August 1940, Sgt Phillips reports escaping the Faculté with help from "Mme X", with whom he had been in correspondence, and "Monsieur Y" who met him with a tandem bicycle. Phillips says he was taken back to the house where Monsieur Y lived. I believe that Mme X was Jeannine Voglimacci and Monsieur Y was Cole. A later report by Squadron Leader EPP Gibbs concluded his September 1941 debrief "Sgt Phillips, RAF, who gave a lecture at Tangmere in June 41 told his audience [they] should apply for help to No 1 Rue Tourraine (sic) Lille." the address of Jeannine Voglimmaci's beauty salon with the flat above where Cole sometimes lodged.
A file on Roland Lepers says it was Phillips who introduced him to Cole at the end of December 1940. Cole was hidden with two other Englishmen at Mme Deram's house at 50 rue Bernadette, La Madeleine. The other Englishmen could have been Pte I Perkins (335) and Pte H J Burton (Ox & Bucks LI) - Perkins simply says they travelled with 'a sergeant' on the long journey south, arriving in Marseille early January. If this was Cole then they would probably have been first servicemen he took to Marseille however Roland Lepers says that Cole didn't go to Marseille until March when he took him there at the request of Charles Murchie. Perkins escaped St Hippolyte in April 1941 and was home by June. Burton was still with Detachment W when they were sent to Italy 6 December 1942.
Lt James Langley, who arrived Marseille in mid-November and left 21 February 1941, says in his 1974 book 'Fight Another Day' that Cole had first come to Marseille in November 1940 at that he had met and talked to him personally on two (undated) occasions, but this seems unlikely to be correct.
Sgt Phillips stayed on in Lille until the following January when Roland Lepers took him and two young French boys to Marseille. After failing to get any assistance from the American Consulate, Lepers took Phillips to Perpignan and the foothills of the Pyrenees. Phillips crossed the frontier from Maureilles-las-Illas in March and got as far as Figueras before being arrested by the Spanish Garde Civile. He eventually returned to England, flying from Gibraltar by Sunderland, arriving 14 May 1941. NB. Murphy (page 60) also says it was Cole and Voglimmaci that helped Sgt Phillips although his account of Phillips' escape from the hospital differs somewhat from Phillips' official E&E report.
Lepers had gone to Marseille in the hope of getting himself to England to join the Free French Forces but on returning to Marseille, he found Murchie who persuaded him that he would be of more use to England working as a convoyeur bringing servicemen down from the north.
Cole's main job was to find stranded servicemen in and around Lille. He became well known in the area and was widely believed to be an officer in the British Secret Intelligence Service. By August 1940 Cole had established relations with a group of resisters in the Lille area, led by l'Abbe Decrain and Mme Delbois in Roubaix, whose self-appointed task was to support stranded British soldiers and send them south to Marseille. Cole says they were responsible for sending Roland Lepers to Marseille where he met Captain Murchie and learnt about the Seamen's Mission and Donald Caskie. Cole also named M & Mme Delbois, M & Mme Mais, Mme Hubert, Mme Leers, Jean Glineur and M Honore (who sometimes took escapers to Paris in his lorry) as working with him at this time.
The names of helpers are taken directly from a statement that Harold Cole made to Major Peter Hope G2 SHAEF on 21 June 1945. In August 2012, Lionel Vannieuwenhuyse emailed me to correct the spelling of the abbé Decrane and the family Maes. He also told me that André and Pauline Maes were denounced in August 1943 and deported to Germany, and that their sixteen year old daughter Germaine, Lionel's mother, was interned at Loos prison.
A post war report dated 25 March 1945, says that when Lepers was in Lille, Jeannine Voglimmaci harboured him at her home at 103 Bvd de la Liberte, La Madeleine. A separate report also records Lepers as having an address in Wasquehal, which is only a few kilometres from La Madeleine. Lepers says he also stayed at the Damerment home at Marquette at various times.
Cole says that Murchie was passing on soldiers to Donald Caskie at the Seamen's Mission, and he asked Lepers if there was a British officer in the north who could handle the northern end of the line. Lepers apparently said that Cole was the only Englishman he knew and so Murchie ordered him back to Lille to bring Cole to Marseille. This would have been Lepers' third trip from Lille, the second having been to bring Murchie's French wife to join him in Marseille. Cole goes on to say that he and Lepers travelled south via Abbeville, Paris, Tours and St Martin-le-Beau to Loches, Chateauroux and Toulouse. On arrival he was introduced to Caskie but when they tried to find Murchie, he was in the Regina Bar cabaret. Cole then went to the American Consulate where he saw Hugh Fullerton who contacted Murchie and Clayton who, after some discussion, gave Cole several thousand francs and sent him back to Lille, sometime in October (sic).
October 1940 is clearly wrong. Captain Charles Murchie (RASC) had been living in Lille where he and Sgt Harry Clayton RAF were already well known for their efforts at raising funds and supporting evading soldiers. They were in the north until October 1940 when they left for Paris and Marseille. Roland Lepers is the man who brought Cole to Marseille, probably in March 1941 - Garrow says late May but I believe this refers to the first time Garrow actually met Cole (see below) rather than his first visit, where he met with Murchie. I am also not convinced that it was Murchie's wife who was brought down from Lille - I think it was more likely to have been Harry Clayton's wife.
Pte James Smith (5 Gordons) was one of the thousands of British soldiers captured at St Valery-en-Caux on 12 June 1940. Most of the ORs were formed into columns and marched across France to Belgium and on into Germany. James Smith escaped from his column near Brussels. He found work on a farm at Gruson for a few days and then moved on to work on a farm near Louvil until August when he learned that Ptes J Ross (690) A Pow (689) and A Neill (677) all from his own Battalion, were being hidden nearby. The four men stayed together, supported by the villagers and the Mayor of Louvil until the end of October when Smith was taken to Lille. In January 1941 the Mayor arranged for Smith to join an organised party being taken south. His French guide is not named but the soldiers were Pte G Evenden from Chatham (mentioned again below) Pte A Littlejohn (about whom I have no information) and St Valery escapers Gnr J Rothwell (362) Gnr A E Hilditch (340) and Gnr Hills (341). They crossed into Vichy France from Le Grand Pressingny but were soon arrested and sent to Chateauroux their guide got away. The five men were taken to Marseille where they spent the night at Fort St Jean before boarding a train for Nimes and St Hippolyte. Smith and Evenden were able to escape at Nimes station by boarding a train for St Puy. They had just enough money to get them back to Chateauroux where a friendly gendarme they had met earlier took them to Paris and gave them enough money for the journey to Lille Smith says he wanted to warn his friends that their escape route was compromised. Smith went to Roubaix and Evenden returned to his friends at Fives where he had been sheltered previously.
In his statement to Peter Hope, Cole says that he had heard that Clayton was wasting the Organisation 's funds in night clubs and so in March 1941 he decided to go to Marseille himself and find out the truth. He and Lepers began their journey by taking a goods train to Amiens before rejoining the more usual route at Paris he says they took six escapers with them. [Cpl A Whitehurst (256) reports using this route in January 1941 in the company of two (apparently) French guides but I have no record of anyone else using it]. Cole says that on arrival in Marseille he found Caskie in a depressed mood and with the news that there was a new British officer in Marseille - Captain Ian Garrow. Cole was directed to the American Consulate where Major Hugh Dodds (former Consul General at Nice) directed him to Garrow in Room 18. Garrow told him that he had taken charge of the line and that Cole was to return north and continue sending men south. In fact Murchie and Clayton didn't leave Marseille until April 1941 so it's unlikely this exchange could have taken place much before that.
Towards the end of April 1941, Smith was taken to stay at the house in La Madeleine where Cole was living with Madeleine Deram, and early the following month they escorted Driver R McClelland (519) and Pte Edwin Street (RWK), along with a Mrs Gardner (French by birth but married to an Englishman) and her three daughters, to Marseille. They took the same route via Abbeville (where they crossed from the zone interdite (the forbidden or 'red' zone) into the occupied zone using papers supplied by the Abbé Pierre Carpentier) Paris, Tours and the demarcation line at St Martin-le-Beau that Roland Lepers had devised and that he and Cole were to use so many times later. At Marseille Cole introduced Smith to Ian Garrow who promptly recruited Smith to return north to bring more servicemen down to Marseille.
Mrs Gardner was Germaine Celine Gardner (née Delliesche) of Wambrechies, with her daughters Marie-Louise, Suzette and Jacqueline. The family were friends of the Damerments who lived at nearby Marquette-lez-Lille. The Gardner family stayed in Marseille for some months before going on to Lisbon by train and then to the UK by flying boat in early 1942 (my thanks to Marie-Louise Bennie (née Gardner) for this update).
McClelland had been wounded and captured at Cassel in June 1940 and he and Street had escaped together from a hospital at Hazebrouck in March 1941 and been sheltered in Lille. McClelland was later repatriated by the Mixed Medical Board while Street remained an internee of the French until transfer to Italy at the end of 1942.
On 21 May 1941 fighter pilot Marian Rytka (483) was shot down near Boulogne. After staying with a friend in Lens for a few days, Rytka says he went to Lille where a French organisation put him in touch with a British organisation run by a man known as "Sgt Paul". Cole probably had papers made for him in several names but his usual alias in Lille was still that of Paul Delobel.
I believe Rytka was the Polish airman that James Smith reports taking, along with an un-named British soldier, to Marseille the following month. Smith reports meeting Elisabeth Haden-Guest and Bruce Dowding on arrival and Rytka says that Capt Garrow helped him there, although he didn't meet him in person. Rytka and Sgt Phillip Herbert RAF (629) were taken to Nimes where they joined Sgt W E Whiteman RAF (481) and Sapper D Kemp (539) for the journey to Banyuls and (according to Brome) it was the newly arrived Pat O'Leary that took them into the mountains for the crossing into Spain.
Driver H H Walsh (450) and Sapper R Burgess (451) were captured at St Valery-en-Caux on 13 June and subsequently escaped one of the many marching columns at Basieux. After sheltering in Cycoing for nearly a year, they finally left for Marseille on 2 June 1941. They report that it was "Sgt Coles (sic) RE" who took them to Abbeville, Paris and Tours before crossing the demarcation line at St Martin-le-Beau and on to Marseille where they stayed at the Sailors Mission presumably the Seamen's Mission at rue Forbin, still being run by Donald Caskie at that time but soon to be closed. From there they say it was Ian Garrow who arranged for them to join a party of four others who were guided across the Pyrenees and delivered to the British Consulate in Barcelona.
File KV2/416 contains an extraordinary memorandum from Ian Garrow, dated 10 June 1941 and addressed to Hugh Fullerton, the American Consulate General in Marseille, that shows just how much Garrow trusted and depended on Cole at that time. The memo is written confirmation that Garrow had used Cole to investigate rumours about Donald Caskie's associations with suspected Gestapo agents Christine Gorman and Francis Mummet [sic - Pte F G Mumme (650)1] and that Garrow had then confronted Caskie with this evidence, in Fullerton's presence, the day before. The memo is all the more bizarre as the investigation into Caskie's affairs seems to have started when Cole reported to Garrow that he had become aware for some time of a female agent in Lille, known as 'Christine', who had caused a number of British soldiers to be denounced and shot. He also said that Christine was working with a man believed to be a British officer. On visiting the Seamen's Mission he had recognised Christine and on pretending to be a Gestapo agent himself had confirmed her activities and gained the name of her confederate as Francis Mummet. Garrow already knew Mummet (aka Emar) who had been introduced to him as an officer (sic) in the Gordons and of whom he had his own suspicions. Caskie confirmed that he knew Christine was a Gestapo agent but not deemed the information of sufficient importance to pass on to Garrow. At this point Garrow decided to sever all links with Caskie despite his acknowledgement of the value of Caskie's work in "receiving, clothing, feeding and lodging British soldiers" which he described as "inestimable", and the fact that he was personally indebted to the Padre "for a hundred kindnesses". Caskie's response is not included but the Mission was closed shortly afterwards.
1) Francis George Kerr Mumme is another strange case. Mumme (born 1919 in India to Scottish parents) failed as a pupil pilot on an RAF Short Service Commission in 1937 and was serving as a private with 1 Bn Gordon Highlanders when he was captured at St Valery-en-Caux. In his MI9 debrief, he says that he escaped from one of the marching columns near Fournes although a later interview in 1944, gives a completely different story. Either way, he then claims to have had various adventures working with an organisation and helping numerous escapers and evaders in Calais and Lille. It was in Lille that he first met Christine Gorman who was suspected of denouncing local people who were hiding British soldiers, to the Gestapo. In March 1941, Mumme left Lille for Marseille, where he briefly met Gorman again in May. Mumme was arrested at Perpignan in June and held at a civilian prison at Montpellier, charged with "complicity against the security of the state, being an agent for an enemy power" until his escape in September. Mumme crossed the Pyrenees to Spain in October. After two months at the British Embassy in Madrid he was sent to Gibraltar and left for the UK on board SS Batory on 30 December 1941. In February 1942, Mumme was accepted for training as an MI9 agent but found unsuitable and returned to his regiment.
The allegations and subsequent charges against Christine Gorman (born July 1920 in Lille - her father was English) are very complicated. There is no question that in 1940, she was the mistress of a German officer but details (and her claimed motivations) are confusing. She was arrested in Marseille by the French in June 1941 and sentenced to two years in prison at Montpellier. After her release in 1943, she became involved with an Abwehr III counter-intelligence feldwebel named Erwin Streif. Streif (who was known to have posed as a British officer) claimed that he was directed to make contact with her as she was presumed to be a British Intelligence agent but then became infatuated with her. File KV 2/2850 at the National Archives contains more details of her activities ...
The only mention I've found of Christine Gorman in the MI9 files is the part she played in the capture of Spitfire pilot F/O Charles R Fraser (LIB/1454) in October 1943 after she collected him from his helpers in Mons-en-Pévelè (Pas-de-Calais) and took him to Lille.
It was sometime in June 1941 that James Smith (now aka Jean Dubois) introduced Cole to some of his own contacts in Lille. In his Liberation Report of 25 Sept 1945, nearly six months after his return to the UK, and following three and a half years in a variety of German prisons that he was fortunate to survive, Smith says they included a Resistance Leader, a Customs Official and the Mayor of Louvil. In an interview with a Major Patterson dated two days later Smith named them as Louis Galant, Millett (?) and (Marcel) Duhayon.
Towards the end of June Smith reports he took one airman and two soldiers to Marseille where he handed them over to Cole. This may have been one of the often cited examples where Cole claimed credit for delivering men actually escorted by others. I don't know who these evaders were.
At the end of June Cole took one of his most celebrated parcels, and subsequently one of his greatest post-war defenders, to Marseille. F/Lt F W 'Taffy' Higginson (872) was shot down 17 June 1941 just outside Dunkirk. Higginson was soon collected by Désiré Didry who drove him to Abbeville. Unfortunately the Abbé Carpentier was unable to provide the local Ausweis needed to cross the Somme without some kind of identity card, or at least a photograph, to back it up so Didry took Higginson back to his home in St Omer. Higginson was then moved to where Cole was living with Madeleine Deram at 6 rue Jean Bart, La Madeleine. It is interesting to note that James Smith reported that he met Cole and Higginson, who he referred to as F/Lt Bennett, along with another RAF officer just before they left Lille, but who this other airman was is not known. A few days later Cole took Higginson, presumably now with a suitable identity card, back to Abbeville where they crossed into the occupied zone to catch a train to Paris. They stayed in Paris two days, eating at the Chope du Pont Neuf, before going on to Tours and the demarcation line at St Martin-le-Beau where the much repeated episode with the chocolate in the briefcase happened. Higginson reached Marseille 2 July 1941 and was sheltered with Dr Georges Rodocanachi. He claims to have been present at the flat when the radio message from London "Adolphe doit reste", meaning that Pat O'Leary should stay in Marseille, was received. O'Leary was using papers supplied by Cole in the name of Adolphe Lecomte, and although most people in the south later knew O'Leary as Joseph Cartier, it was as Lecomte that he was generally known to Cole and those in the north.
Higginson was taken to Perpignan by Tom Kenny and lodged at the Hotel de la Loge where Paulette Gastou and her parents sheltered so many of the Line's 'parcels'. After ten days of waiting for a guide to take him across the mountains, Higginson made his own way to the station but Bruce Dowding, who was living in the hotel as André Mason, brought him back. Next day they went on to Banyuls where Higginson was arrested and held at Montpellier (where he met Pte Mumme see above) before joining the other allied internees of Detachment W at St Hippolyte du Fort. The following year Higginson was one of the forty-two men due to be repatriated by the MMB but returned by the Vichy French as a reprisal for the allied bombing of the Renault factory he finally escaped Fort de la Rivere 23 August 1942 and was evacuated on Operation Titania from Canet Plage 21 September by Marian Kradewski on his last mission with the felucca Seawolf.
In July 1941 James Smith took Pte Charles Knight (798) Pte W Daniel (Lothians) and L/Cpl G Evenden south via Abbeville, where the Abbé Carpentier again provided their papers, and Paris to cross the demarcation line near Tours where they were met by a Portuguese guide and a French gendarme referred to as Gaston. Gaston gave Smith instructions from Cole to return north this may (or may not) have been another example of Cole taking credit for another courier's work after Smith had completed the most dangerous part of the trip and delivered the soldiers to the relative safety of the unoccupied zone.
All five men were arrested (Smith says at Chateauroux after the guide registered their names at the hotel, Knight's report suggests Toulouse) and the three soldiers sent to St Hippolyte and later to Fort de la Rivere. Knight escaped the Pasteur Hospital at Nice with Whitney Straight on 22 June 1942 and was taken off from St Pierre Plage, Narbonne by HMS Tarana on the first Bluebottle operation. Daniel was still in captivity when the internees of Detachment W were handed over to the Italians at the end of 1942. It is not known what happened to Evenden who apparently left the internee camp of Chambaran in unknown circumstances.
Towards the end of August 1941, James Smith was taking Gunners Frank Tuck, William Collins and William Mayes, and an alleged Norwegian pilot, south on the Paris-Bordeaux express when they were arrested at Orleans. The Norwegian was in fact a German (apparently a deserter but perhaps an infiltration agent) and he told his interrogators everything. Since he had been with the party from Bethune he knew all about the Abbé Carpentier in Abbeville as well as any contacts Smith had made in Paris. It's also possible some or all of the soldiers also talked as they are said to have testified against Désiré Didry, one of their helpers in the Pas de Calais along with Norbert Fillerin. Didry was condemned to death and decapitated 30 June 1943 at Lubeckerstrasse jail in Dortmund along with Pierre Carpentier, Bruce Dowding, Marcel Duhaye, Protais Dubois and five others.
On 19 August 1941 Sgt Rudolf Ptacek (643) a 222 (Czech) Sqn Spitfire pilot, was shot down near St Omer. He was helped by Gilbert Veraeghie, Jerome Hughes and Emile Degraeve, who gave him false papers, before Ptacek made his way to Lille and an address he had been given in England Jeannine Voglimacci's beauty salon in La Madeleine. Sgt Adolphe Pietrasiak (642) was a 308 Sqn Spitfire pilot shot down on the same Circus 82 mission as Ptacek but he came down near Dunkirk. Again he was helped by local civilians, although he didn't name any of them. He was advised to go to St Omer where the Organisation sheltered him before taking him to Lille where he met Ptacek, a Polish cadet named Henryk Stachura who had escaped from Germany, and an English Flight Lieutenant named Crowley-Milling. F/Lt Denis Crowley-Milling (604) was a 610 Sqn Spitfire pilot shot down over St Omer 21 August 1941. He was sheltered by a succession of helpers that he named as R Valois at Bourthes and Hucqueliers, P Gaston at Wicquinghem and Norbert Fillerin at Renty, before being taken to where Cole was living with Madeleine Deram at La Madeleine.
On Monday 1 September 1941 Cole and Roland Lepers took the three airmen and Polish cadet, along with three soldiers, Cpl Fred Wilkinson (651) Pte Peter Janes (652) and Pte Arthur Fraser (653) who had all been sheltered around Auchel since the previous year, from Bethune to Abbeville, where Pierre Carpentier provided the passes they needed to cross the Somme, and then on to Paris, Tours and the crossing into the ZNO at St Martin-le-Beau. Then it was the usual overnight walk to Loches, a bus to Chateauroux and trains to Toulouse and Marseille where they arrived early Thursday morning. The men were sheltered overnight by Louis Nouveau and Georges Rodocanachi before going on to the Pyrenees. Pietrasiak stayed on with Dr Rodocanachi he had injured his leg when baling out from his aircraft and further aggravated it on the walk to Loches. The rest of the party crossed the frontier from Banyuls-des-Aspres and Laroque-des-Alberes the night of 7/8 September and were arrested by the Spanish next day. For more details of this trip see 'Six Days in September'.
Meanwhile in England, on 8 September 1941 a Mrs Agnes Hewitt called at Scotland Yard to tell them that "H Cole" was residing at the New York Café, Vieux Port in Marseille and that he was responsible for helping at least 20 soldiers escaping from the Nazis and smuggling some 200 British subjects from the ZO to the ZNO. Cole had led her to believe he was attached to the British CID and had asked Mrs Hewitt to inform Scotland Yard that he was safe.
Also in September, Cole became engaged to a nineteen year old French girl named Suzanne Angele Warenghem. Warenghem grew up near Le Havre but had moved to Paris and was living with her aunt Jeanne in the Paris suburb of Becon-les-Bruyeres. She had begun her work as a courier by helping four soldiers - Capt G H Darke (465) 2/Lt K W Spreckley (466) Capt F W M Plant (377) and Capt J J McPartland (378) escape from the Val de Grace Hospital in Paris in May 1941. The following month she brought Pte James Tobin (532) and Signalman Thomas Edgar (537), who also escaped from Val de Grace, to Marseille. She took them to Donald Caskie's Seamen's Mission and was introduced to Bruce Dowding. Cole says he was introduced to Mlle Warenghem by Ian Garrow but a separate file on Wharenghem says it was Bruce Dowding. She had asked to be sent to England but Dowding wanted her to stay and work with Cole. At first she simply ran errands for Cole, including going to see Mme Berritz at 7 Quai de Courmont in Lyons to collect a Colonel Seagrim who had (allegedly) escaped from the Hospital Cochin. That same month she became engaged to Cole and according to her 1944 statement, was living with Cole and Roland Lepers at the Hotel Paris in Nice.
The only other mention of Seagrim (apart from Murphy) I know of is in the NARA file for Dr Charles Cliquet. Lt Col Archibald Seagrim of the BEF is reported as having escaped Val de Grace hospital in 1941 and sheltered in Paris - but there is also a note saying "no trace".
On 22 September 1941, Cole and Roland Lepers, along with Lepers' fiancée Madeleine Damerment, took another party south by the same route via Abbeville, Paris, Tours and St Martin-le-Beau to Toulouse and Marseille, arriving there Thursday 25 September. This group consisted of three soldiers: L/Bdr J Heather (659) Gnr H Fryer (660) and Dvr J Strachan RASC (661), and two airmen: F/Lt A L Winskill (600) and Sgt Pilot L M McKee (608).
Heather and Fryer were Royal Artillery men who avoided capture in the fighting at Ochancourt near Abbeville in May 1940 and been sheltered by a succession of local people ever since, eventually finding their way to Lille where the Organisation took them on. Strachan had been captured but escaped one of the many marching columns north of Bethune in June 1940. He was sheltered in St Omer by the Organisation from August 1940. Archie Winskill was a 41 Sqn Spitfire pilot shot down over the Pas de Calais 14 August 1941. He was sheltered by local people and soon introduced to McKee before joining the party to be taken south. McKee was a 616 Sqn Spitfire pilot, also shot down 14 August over the Pas de Calais and also hidden by locals who moved him around until he joined Winskill. They were taken to Lillers 13 September where they first met Strachan, just a week before their departure for Marseille.
From Marseille, Strachan and the two airmen joined Adolphe Pietrasiak (the pilot who stayed in Marseille having his injured leg treated by Dr Rodocanachi while the rest of his party went on to Perpignan) at Canet Plage before crossing into Andorra from Ax-les-Thermes in early October. All three men report arriving at the British Consulate in Barcelona a few days later so I assume they had a reliable guide unlike the other members of Pietrasiak's original party from Bethune who were arrested on their arrival in Spain and only met Pietrasiak again at the British Embassy in Madrid after a month at Miranda. Heather and Fryer stayed on in Marseille for a week after the others left. They crossed the Pyrenees from Prats-de-Mollo only to be arrested in Spain and spend the next couple of months in a series of Spanish gaols before finally leaving Gibraltar for England at the end of the year on the same ship as Strachan and Pietrasiak. Both Winskill and McKee had been flown home some weeks earlier.
In a statement dated 26 May 1945, O'Leary says he first met Cole in August 1941 but soon became suspicious of him. He had already been given some six hundred thousand francs by the Organisation but was now asking for another fifty thousand in order to arrange to have 'six or seven pilots' driven south by lorry. Some days later O'Leary saw Cole still in Marseille and spending money on women. A week or so later Cole appeared with two men he said were the pilots he had brought. O'Leary later questioned the men who soon admitted they were actually Frenchmen paid by Cole to repeat the story.
Suzanne Warenghem says that on 30 September Cole told her and Roland Lepers the police were after them and that they must leave Marseille. They took the eight o'clock evening train to Toulouse and two days later Cole took Warenghem to Paris where she stayed whilst he and Lepers continued north. Leper's file says it was 27 September when Cole asked him to take Suzanne to Toulouse where Cole met them next day. At about the same time, Ian Garrow sent O'Leary and Maurice Dufour to Lille to see Francois Duprez, now the Organisation's northern banker, and Duprez confirmed that Cole did indeed spend most of his money on women and nothing whatever on downed pilots. O'Leary says he ordered Duprez to bring Cole to Marseille so that he could testify against Cole.
It seems widely accepted that O'Leary only decided Cole should be killed after the confrontation on 2 November but Stella Lonsdale reported his intention to James Langley in London on 7 November. Lonsdale left Marseille 27 October which suggests O'Leary had made his decision about Cole long before he confessed his crimes at the Rodocanachi apartment.
Ian Garrow was arrested by the Vichy 2ème Bureau 10 October 1941 and taken to Fort St Nicolas in Marseille for three months before transfer to the concentration camp at Mauzac-et-Saint-Meyme-de-Rozens on the Dordogne river. At this point Pat O'Leary (known to Cole as Adolphe Lecomte) took charge of the Line. Cole says he heard of Garrow's arrest from the American Consulate on his next trip to Marseille.
On 27 October 1941, Cole took the largest ever party of allied servicemen taken south from the Pas de Calais to Marseille. He was again accompanied by Roland Lepers and Madeleine Damerment and they took a total of seven airmen and six soldiers. The men had been collected and sheltered in various safe houses around Burbure and Lillers before boarding the morning train to Abbeville where they were supplied with passes to cross the Somme by the Abbé Carpentier. The party went on the Paris that afternoon where Suzanne Warenghem arranged their overnight accommodation. Suzanne went with them next day to Tours, St Martin-le-Beau and the overnight walk to Loches, only leaving them at Chateauroux where they caught the train for Toulouse. They arrived Marseille early on the Thursday morning.
All the men are recorded by Louis Nouveau as having stayed with him, although I believe many actually stayed with Dr Georges Rodocananchi. The soldiers only spent one night in Marseille before being sent on to Nimes for a few days before moving to Canet Plage where they joined groups crossing the mountains by various routes many were subsequently arrested in Spain and spent time in Spanish prisons before being repatriated. The airmen were more fortunate. They stayed an extra few nights in Marseille before going on to Perpignan and crossing into Spain with a guide who took them to Figueras from where Spanish railwaymen delivered them to Barcelona and the safety of the British Consulate on 8 November. For more details of their trip see 'The Big Party'.
It was the Sunday after delivering this party that Cole was confronted by Pat O'Leary, Francois Duprez, Mario Prassinos and Bruce Dowding in the Rodocanachi apartment on 2 November 1941, and accused of stealing funds from the Organisation. Faced with the evidence from Duprez, Cole broke down and confessed all, but while the others were still discussing his fate, Cole escaped from the flat - his career as a convoyeur (courier or guide) with the escape line was ended.
Next day O'Leary, Bruce Dowding, Jean de la Olla, Maurice Dufour, Duprez (and probably others), left for the north to spread the word about Cole. O'Leary wanted Bruce Dowding to take over Cole's work in the north and he used Roland Lepers to make some of the introductions.
As well as those named earlier, Cole said the following also helped him with his work - Mlle Berthe Cateau, Mme Capron, Mme Delmont, M & Mme Dubois-Roussel, Fernand Salingue at Burbure, Mlle Delbois and M Chevalier who forged Ausweise for the ZI crossings all in the north - and Eugene Durand, owner of the Chope du Pont Neuf restaurant in Paris, "Commandant" Bernard of the 2ème Bureau, Professor Fernand Holbeck and Vladimir de Fligue (Wladimir de Fligué, born November 1905 in Leningrad) who prepared false papers in Paris, and M Besnard of Athee-sous-Cher and M Daguenet, passeurs at the crossing of the river Cher.
Although Cole was now finished with the Organisation in Marseille, that didn't mean everyone in the north knew about his expulsion, and a few days after his return to La Madeleine, Cole took a last party from Lillers. They were Sgt H R Wilson (673) and Sgt W H Dyer (692) and they were accompanied by a Polish sergeant referred to only as Gustave. After crossing into the ZO at Abbeville in the usual way, the men were joined in Paris by Suzanne Warenghem who travelled with them as far as St Martin-le-Beau. At Toulouse they lost their guide. It may be assumed this parting was planned as Cole could hardly return to Marseille, and he is reported to have collected some 6,000 francs from the men before his departure.
Dyer was crewman of a 99 Sqn Wellington brought down in Belgium 28 September 1941 after a raid on Frankfurt. The crew baled out and three of them were taken POW but the rest evaded with Sgt H E Birk (695) Sgt Jack Newton (649) and P/O H B Carroll (666) being brought out by the Belgian Comète Line and crossing the western Pyrenees together 10 December. Sgt B Dicks (696) apparently made his own way south - although more likely he simply declined to give details of his helpers - and crossed the Pyrenees from Perpignan alone, only to be arrested and sent to Miranda. He finally reached England in March 1942. Dyer walked to Calais where he met Wilson and the Organisation seems to have taken over from there. Wilson was crewman of a 51 Sqn Whitley V brought down near Calais the evening of 17 October 1941 on the outward leg of a raid on Franfurt. Wilson baled out, and after walking into Calais and then Dunkirk, returned to Calais where he was sheltered locally before being introduced to Dyer.
Dyer, Wilson and Gustave made their own way by train to Marseille, arriving about 14 November, where they report staying with a doctor I assume Dr Rodocananchi as they say that "arrangements were made" while they stayed there. On 11 December they left for Narbonne where they were joined by P/O Z Groyecki (667) Sgt Budzynski (686) and L/Cpl Kincaid (679) who had been sheltered by the PAO in Nimes. They were taken as far as Port Vendres by an Englishman from St Hippolyte (either Bob Milton or Winwick Hewit on parole) and crossed the Pyrenees from Banyuls to Figueras and on to the British Consulate at Barcelona.
After leaving his last party at Toulouse, and returning to Paris for a few days, Cole says he went to see the Abbé Pierre Carpentier at Abbeville where he was told that Lecompte (O'Leary) had visited the previous day looking for him. On 5 December Cole arrived back at Mme Deram's house at 50 rue Bernadette where they were both arrested next morning he says by ten men and one dog of the German Geheime Feldpolizei (GFP) other reports say by Cornelius Verloop. J C A Verloop was a Dutch double agent arrested in 1940 but released to work with the Abwehr to work at breaking escape lines.
Cole says that his identity card in the name of Paul Delobel was examined and the signature of Francois Duprez recognised. Duprez was arrested at his desk at the town hall next day. He also admits giving away the names of Roland Lepers, a local man named Salome, and Fernand Salingue. Lepers witnessed the Germans' arrival at Madeleine Deram's house and Duprez's office and promptly left Lille with Madeleine Damerment they crossed the Pyrenees with the Ponzal-Vidal organisation in March 1942. Cole says the Germans already knew about Honore who had been arrested several times before.
Two days later, on 8 December, Alfred Lanselle, Pierre Carpentier, Désiré Didry, Bruce Dowding, Maurice Dechaumont and Protais Dubois were arrested by the GFP and in at least four cases, Cole accompanied them. On that day Cole says he was taken to visit a number of his contacts. He was accompanied by GFP men in plain clothes, with false papers, sandwiches and claiming to be downed pilots. Their first stop was Burbure where they visited the home of Protais Dubois. They were met by his wife who immediately invited Cole in and sent her daughter to find Protais. On his arrival he told Cole that he was expecting Adolphe Lecomte to arrive later at Burbure station. He was then arrested and Cole and the GFP moved on to the Salingue house. Fernand, who was a school teacher, was also away and his arrest was apparently not pursued he escaped to the south and is believed to have served with the Resistance there until 1944. His wife Elisa was arrested but later released for lack of evidence. Next stop was Désiré Didry's shop in St Omer (Cole says 'Detry Vasseur'). Didry wasn't home and his wife told Cole to take his 'airmen' away as it was too dangerous to have them there. She was asked to send her husband meet them at the railway station, and when he arrived on his bicycle, he was arrested. They then returned to Burbure station but when the train from Bethune arrived it wasn't "Lecompte" that got off but "André Mason" (Bruce Dowding). He immediately recognised Cole and walked up to him (at Bochum in 1942, Dowding told James Smith that he had come north to kill Cole), only to be arrested on the spot.
That afternoon Cole and the GFP men drove to Abbeville and Pierre Carpentier. Cole told his story of having airmen to move but when the Abbé went off to borrow some local ID cards to go with the Ausweisse (passes) he would produce himself, he was followed by the GFP. The Abbé and his mother were arrested before Cole and the GFP men crossed the bridge over the Somme using their new papers and went to the house of the man who usually collected the passes for return to their owners. He, the suppliers of the ID cards and the negligent German sentry on the bridge were all later arrested.
On 11 December Cole again accompanied GFP men to arrest Vladimir de Fligue and Fernand Holweck in Paris they lived in the same block of flats on rue de Quatre Fages - and on 14 December it was the turn of André Postal-Vinay. De Fligue and Holbeck seem to have been completely taken in by Cole and proceeded to implicate themselves in front of the psuedo-airmen. Postel-Vinay also implicated both himself and Mme Demeure who had two escapers in her home at 16 Avenue Sainte Foy, however on his arrest he quickly realised the truth and tried to shoot Cole with his revolver he was only prevented by the GFP men.
André Postel-Vinay believed he had left a list of names at his home and, afraid that he would betray them under interrogation, tried to commit suicide by jumping from a second floor window of la Santé prison. He was severely injured in the fall and transferred to de la Pitie hospital. He made a second unsuccessful (apparent) suicide attempt in July by cutting his wrists. In September he was transferred to the St Anne mental asylum in Paris from where he escaped a few days later with the probable aid of one of the doctors. Still badly injured, he made his way to his friend Georges Zarifi, nephew of Georges Rodocanachi, at 12 allée Léon Gambetta in Marseille. He was evacuated, on crutches, from Canet Plage on board HMS Seawolf on Operation Titania 21 September 1942. De Fligue survived the war but Fernand Holweck died in prison (Warenghem says under torture) soon after his arrest.
Strangely, despite these apparent betrayals in Lille and Paris, Cole did not denounce the Lepers family nor Jeannine Voglimacci in La Madeleine and ironically it was Mme Voglimacci who was later to play such a major role in Cole's exposure as a traitor by approaching M Calotte, one of the gaolers at Loos prison, and obtaining a written indictment of his treachery from the Abbé Carpentier. Fernand Salingue's wife Elisa was arrested in her husband's absence but later released for lack of evidence that surely Cole could have provided as he knew them both very well. Nor is there any evidence that he betrayed anyone in the south - not Louis Nouveau or Georges Rodocanachi, nor even Pat O'Leary who had punched him in the face or Nancy Fiocca who had so clearly despised him. The evidence suggests to me that the Germans had done their homework and raided a series of houses they knew about (certainly Désiré Didry and Pierre Carpentier), taking Cole with them on some occasions - perhaps as psychological pressure on their victims - but they didn't necessarily need him.
After the arrests in Paris, Cole claims to have escaped from the Germans by offering to help them find Commandant Bernard, the 2ème officer. He pretended to arrange to meet Bernard at the Chope de Pont Neuf but escaped himself through a rear door with Suzanne Warenghem. Suzanne then sheltered Cole with her aunt Jeanne at 9 rue des Guides. Cole's story from this point doesn't really involve the Pat Line although fears of betrayals by him persisted for many months. See 'Turncoat' by Brendan Murphy for details of the rest of the Cole story including his death in January 1946 at the hands of gendarmes, Coty and Levy.
On 10 April 1942 Harold Cole married Suzanne Warenghem at the Eglise Malakoff in Paris. On 8 June they were both arrested by the Vichy DST in Lyons Cole says this was in a 'snap control of papers' and that he was taking his pregnant wife to Marseille where he hoped to have a second, civil marriage to give his child British status. They were brought to trial 21 July and Cole was sentenced to death (apparantly for "betraying his comrades to the Germans") but Suzanne was acquitted. She stayed in Lyon until September when she went to Marseille to find Mario Prassinos, by then second in command of the Organisation. On 31 October 1942 Suzanne gave birth to Alan Patrick Warenghem but he died the following January. See 'In Trust and Treason' by Gordon Young for more details of Suzanne's extraordinary story.
There have been suggestions that Cole may have been employed, or at least used, by the British security services in some capacity. I don't know if this is true, and can find no evidence to support it, but they certainly took an interest in Cole's activities. Included in File KV2/416 is a collection of notes concerning Cole with several references to telegrams received from SIS agents, including one from Geneva dated 12 January 1942 reporting that "R.X.L." had been arrested after keeping an appointment with him and that "Z" knew "Paul" and had been arrested 18 December 1941 and sentenced to be shot he later escaped. Other telegrams were received from Lisbon and Madrid reporting events concerning "Paul".
Information from files held at the National Archives including File KV2/416 (thank you Sandy Garrow for bringing this file to my attention), MI9 Escape and Evasion Reports from various servicemen and from James Smith's Liberation Report. Other information from research for his book 'Detachment W' courtesy of Derek Richardson as well as other published and unpublished sources. Many details also confirmed by M Roland Lepers in October 2007.