The Hotel de Paris, Toulouse
This page updated 17 Mar 2016
For any escape line, a hotel near a railway station would be high on their list of desirable safe houses. The Pat line had two, Paulette Gastou's Hotel de la Loge in Perpignan and the Hotel de Paris in Toulouse. Regularly used by the organisation throughout 1942, the Hotel de Paris even became their temporary headquarters in November. It should be noted that the Hotel de Paris was also used by Marie-Madeleine Fourcade's Alliance group and she had an agent known as Wolf (Gabriel Riviere) who operated from there.
Although I'd long known about the Hotel de Paris, it wasn't until July 2011 that I happened to be in Toulouse and took the opportunity to actually find out where the hotel had been. A visit to the Tourist Office resulted in being told that the Hotel de Paris was now the Citiz Hotel on nearby Allées Jean Jaurès, just a short walk from Matabiau station. Two young (and somewhat bemused) receptionists at the hotel seemed to confirm that I had the right place by telling me that the managers in 1942 had been named Mongelard. I already knew their first names were Stanislas and Augustine. However ...
... in December 2012 I found that Claude Benet's 2009 book 'Passeurs, Fugitifs et Espions' states that the Hotel de Paris is now the Crowne Plaza on Place du Capitole - and includes a photograph of a plaque in the foyer commemorating the fact. Not wanting to doubt my friend Claude's statement, I checked via a newly acquired source (thanks to John H) and found that sure enough, the address of the Hotel de Paris in 1943 was indeed 66 rue de Gambetta, site of the present day Crowne Plaza ...
By the beginning of 1942, the Pat line had started moving evaders south to the Pyrenees via Toulouse rather than direct from Marseille. I suspect this was partly because their activities in Marseille were becoming too obvious but perhaps more importantly, the Spanish Ponzan-Vidal group that they were working with also operated from Toulouse.
In addition to the people mentioned below whose names can definitely be linked to the Hotel de Paris, I'm sure there were many others who used the hotel on their way to Spain. Perhaps the most prominent was SOE agent Ben Cowburn who was leaving France for the Pyrenees after his MGB pick-up from Lannion Bay in Brittany had failed. He is recorded as staying at Louis Nouveau's apartment on 21 February before being taken to a hotel in Toulouse for ten days. He and Major Robert Challenor (711) who had escaped from Rouen - RAF evader P/O Mieczyslaw Taras (721) and others were then taken on a classic Ponzan-Vidal route over the mountains from Banyuls to Vilajuiga at the beginning of March.
The first specific mention I have for the Hotel de Paris being used by the PAO was on the first of February 1942 when Pat line agents Andrée Borrel and Maurice Dufour left Marseille to stay two weeks at the hotel before going on to cross the mountains from Banyuls with guides from the Ponzan-Vidal organisation.
Sgt Leslie Pearman (928) was front gunner of Wellington T2846 when he was shot down near Dusseldorf the night of 13/14 October 1941. He evaded from Germany with the help of Belgian and French railwaymen, getting as far as St Sulphice Lauriare (north-east of Limoges) before being arrested and sent to St Hippolyte ...
F/O Brian Hawkins (879) was flying Hurricane Z3470 when he was shot down over Brittany on 26 October 1941. He evaded across the demarcation line to Vichy France where he was arrested at Paulny and sent to the French internment camp of St Hippolyte du Fort ...
On 1 March 1942, Pearman and Hawkins escaped from the hospital at Nimes that served the British detainees at St Hippolyte. They were sheltered in Nimes for eight days with Gaston Negre at his house on rue Porte de la France before Alex Wattebled brought them to Toulouse to stay at the Hotel de Paris.
I'm not sure how long they stayed in Toulouse but both men were recaptured in Perpignan on 20 March and sent to the internment camp of Fort de la Rivere, in the hills above Monte Carlo, where the detainees from St Hippolyte had been moved to earlier that month. Brian Hawkins escaped from Fort de la Rivere with four other airmen in August and was evacuated from Canet Plage on Operation Titania in September. Leslie Pearman escaped in the big break-out of 5 September and was evacuated from Canet Plage on Operation Rosalind in October.
Major Philip Newman RAMC (736) was captured at Dunkirk after he stayed behind to help the wounded. He escaped from the Heilag (repatriation camp) at Sotteville near Rouen in February 1942 and made his way to Marseille the following month where he made contact with the Pat line. He was sheltered in Louis Nouveau's apartment for a few days before Louis took him to the station and put him on a train for Toulouse. He stayed at the Hotel de Paris with Francis Blanchain for about a week in early April before Blanchain took him and five others south to the Pyrenees for their crossing with a Ponzan-Vidal guide to the British Consulate in Barcelona.
Capt Hugh A Woollatt (638) was captured with his carrier platoon at the L'Escaut Canal on 22 May 1940. Woollatt was sent to Oflag VII C/H (Laufen) Stalag XXID (Posen) and then Stalag XXA (Thorn) before finally arriving at Oflag VB (Biberach) on 3 June 1941. Woollatt was one of the twenty-six men who escaped through a tunnel from Biberach on 13 September 1941. Twenty-two men were subsequently recaptured but Woollatt and three others (including Duncan and Rowan-Hamilton, see below) made it safely to Switzerland ...
Lt Airey M S Neave (676) was wounded during the defence of Calais and captured on 26 May 1940. After months in a hospital in Lille and still suffering from his wounds, Neave was sent to Oflag IXA (Spangenberg) until March 1941 when he was moved to Stalag XXA (Thorn) in Poland. Following his first escape and subsequent capture a few days later, Neave was sent to Oflag IVC (Colditz) in May 1941. His first escape attempt from Colditz in August 1941 ended at the main gate but his second attempt on 5 January 1942, again disguised as a German officer but this time with Dutch Lt Toni Luteyn, resulted in them both getting safely to Switzerland in just four days ...
It wasn't until 14 April 1942 that Neave was suddenly summoned to Geneva to meet a mysterious man at the station. Over drinks, the man explained that Neave was to escape over the Swiss border the next day with Capt Hugh Woollatt. Early next morning Neave and Woollatt were taken to a small cemetery where the border was pointed out to them. They were to cross the wire and stand by a signpost to Annemasse where they would be collected. The arrangements worked perfectly and the two men were delivered safely to Louis Nouveau and the Pat O'Leary organisation in Marseille.
Woollatt and Neave are recorded as arriving at Louis Nouveau's apartment on 16 April where (according to Neave's book) they stayed for a week. On about 23 April, Francis Blanchain took them to Toulouse where they stayed another week at the Hotel de Paris before going on to Perpignan. They (with others) were taken and across the Pyrenees and delivered to the British Consulate in Barcelona by the Ponzan-Vidal organisation.
Lt Michael Duncan (639) was captured at Watou in Belgium on 30 May 1940 and Lt Angus Rowan-Hamilton (640) at St Valery-en-Caux on 12 June 1940. Both men escaped from Oflag VB (Biberach) to Switzerland in September 1941.
Duncan and Rowan-Hamilton left Switzerland in April 1942 by arrangement with the British Military Attaché (or more likely SIS Station Chief Victor Farrell) and were taken to Marseille where they stayed with Louis Nouveau. On 16 April, Nouveau took them to Toulouse where they stayed at the Hotel de Paris. A few days later they were joined by Cpl G R Wheeler (740) and L/Cpl R W Sims (783) - two Commandos from the St Nazaire raid in March who had evaded to Toulouse. On 2 May, the four men (and others, including Polish F/Lt Marian Kozubski) went by train to Banyuls-sur-Mer where they were passed over to a guide from the Ponzan-Vidal organisation who took them across the Pyrenees to Vilajuiga where they caught a train to Barcelona and the British Consulate.
Pte David Rufus Edwards (781) was captured at Sfakia (Crete) and Pte David Lang (782) captured whilst attempting to escape the island by boat from Suda Bay in June 1941. They were sent to Stalag VIIA at Moosburg. Edwards and Lang escaped together from a work party on 30 March 1942 and made their way to Switzerland ...
Like Duncan and Rowan-Hamilton (see above) their escape from Switzerland was organised through the British authorities. Lang left on 30 April with Cpl J A Parker (see below) and they were taken to Marseille. They stayed one night at the Rodocanachi apartment before Pat O'Leary took them to Nimes where they were sheltered with Gaston Negre for three weeks and joined by Edwards ...
Cpl J A Parker (615) was also captured on Crete and sent to Stalag VIIA at Moosburg. He escaped from a work party and made his way to Switzerland in November 1941. Parker left Switzerland with David Lang (see above) joining up with David Edwards (I don't have details of his journey) at Nimes ...
On 22 May, Pat O'Leary collected the three men from Nimes and took them to Toulouse where they stayed the night at the Hotel de Paris. Next day they were taken to Osseja to cross the Pyrenees with two Ponzan-Vidal guides who delivered them safely to the British Consulate in Barcelona.
Brigadier G R P Roupel VC (803) and his staff officer Capt C H Gilbert (802) evaded capture near Doullens in May 1940 and made their way to Perriers-sur-Andelle in Normandy where stayed, working on a farm, until March 1941 when they were taken to Rouen. According to Langley (Fight Another Day) Gilbert sent a coded message to the British Embassy in Madrid informing them of their predicament. After spending some time deciphering the message, word was apparently sent to Ian Garrow in Marseille with a request to organise the rescue of these two senior officers. They were finally picked up from Rouen in May 1942 and brought to Toulouse where they stayed at the Hotel de Paris coincidently arriving the same night as Parker (with Edwards and Lang - see above) who mentions the meeting in his report.
Roupel and Gilbert were taken to Banyuls (probably next day) where they joined two more Commandos from St Nazaire, Cpl Edward Douglas (822) and Pte Victor Harding (823) and three evading airmen, P/O J Fusinski (818) F/O J Wacinski (819) and P/O J Morawski (820). Their Ponzan-Vidal guides used the slightly easier mountain route from Banyuls-sur-Mer to Vilajuiga but unfortunately the group were arrested on the train to Barcelona and spent several unpleasant weeks in Spanish custody before release to the British authorities and their eventual return to England from Gibraltar.
Sgt Andrzej Malecki (776) was a crewman on Wellington Z1276 which was shot down by fighters over Belgium on the night of 27/28 April 1942. Malecki baled out and landed near Givet. He evaded to Lyon on 12 May where he went to the US Consulate and was sent from there by the (escape) organisation to Marseille. Malecki says he met Sgt Polesinski (777) and F/O Krawczyk (779) in Marseille ...
Sgt Edward Polesinski (777) was a crewman on Wellington W5627 (along with Sgt Wosniak see below) which was shot down by a fighter on the night of 27/28 April 1942. Polesinski baled out and landed near Charleville in the French Ardennes. He evaded with help from French and Polish sympathisers to Lyon (arriving 15 May) where staff at the old Polish Consulate sent him the US Consulate who put him in touch with the escape line. Polesinski says he joined Sgt Malecki in Lyons although neither Malecki nor Krawczyk confirm this ...
F/O Stanislas Krawczyk (779) was the pilot of Wellington Z8599 which was shot down the night of 5/6 May 1942. After the rest of his crew had baled out, Krawczyk crash-landed the aircraft near Mettet in Belgium. Krawczyk then evaded alone to Lyon where he had friends who sheltered him and put him in touch with the old Polish Consulate and a British organisation that arranged his journey to Marseille. Krawczyk says he joined Sgt Malecki (776) in Lyons and that they travelled together but doesn't mention Polesinski ...
When both engines were hit by anti-aircraft fire, Krawczyk handed his parachute over to another man, allowing his crew to bale out safely (one man was captured but the other five, including F/Lt Alojzy Szkuta (see below) returned to England) before crash-landing his aircraft. Krawczyk was awarded the Polish Virtuti Militari on his return to the UK but was KIA (along with Szkuta) over the Bay of Biscay on 1 November 1942.
The three Polish airmen were sheltered overnight with Louis Nouveau in Marseille before being moved to Nimes for two days and then Toulouse. They arrived at the Hotel de Paris on about 26 May. After a week at the hotel, their Ponzan-Vidal guide took them (and five others) to cross the Pyrenees from Osseja and delivered them to the British Consulate in Barcelona.
S/Ldr Royce C Wilkinson (750) was flying Hurricane BE674 when he was shot down near Abbeville on 3 May 1942. He evaded through Paris and across the demarcation line to Montagny-le-Buxy in Burgundy before finding helpers who advised him to go to Macon and then Lyon where he visited the US Embassy. He stayed the weekend with the American Consul, George Whittinghill, who put him in touch with the incredible Virginia Hall. The American SOE agent took Wilkinson to Louis Nouveau's apartment in Marseille on 25 May. Three days later Francis Blanchain took him to Toulouse and the Hotel de Paris. On about 10 June, Wilkinson left Toulouse for Perpignan and the Pyrenean foothills where he stayed in a shelter for another three days before his Ponzan-Vidal guide took him (and others) across the mountains to the British Consulate in Barcelona.
Lt H E Stewart (636) escaped from the Italian POW camp PG78 (Sulmona) in September 1941 to Switzerland. I don't have a full copy of his MI9 report so have to assume that he had been captured in North Africa. By arrangement with Victor Farrell (SIS) Stewart left Switzerland with two Poles (one almost certainly Cdt Wladislas Tucholko) on 29 May 1942, reaching Marseille that evening. Their rendezvous was the Petit Poucet café on the Canabiere where the staff contacted Mario Prassinos who arranged for them to be taken to Louis Nouveau's apartment. Their stay in Marseille was soon interrupted and it was probably next day when the three men left for Toulouse and the Hotel de Paris. I suspect these are the three men taken to Toulouse by Alex Wattebled (un Anglais et deux Polonais) who he delivered to the hotel and turned over to a Ponzan-Vidal guide known as Salvador.
Stewart reports meeting S/Ldr Wilkinson (see above) three more Poles (probably Malecki, Polesinski and Krawczyk - see above) and a Yugoslav naval officer who had escaped from Italy (Major Ilitch Lyubomir) at the hotel, and that someone known as Felix was in charge during the two days he was in Toulouse.
Stewart was taken by train to Osseja by his Spanish guide along with one of the Poles from Switzerland, two Belgians and an Englishman called Napier. They walked as far as Ribas in Spain before taking a train to Barcelona and the British Consulate.
Sgt Stanley Ainger (863) was a crewman on Hampden AT156 which was shot down over Belgium the night of 5/6 April 1942. I don't have a full copy of his escape report although I do have details of most of his evasion through Brussels and Lille to Lyons (where I think he first contacted the organisation) then Montauban to Toulouse and the Hotel de Paris, probably arriving 7 June. He stayed two nights at the hotel before a young Frenchman took him to Banyuls-sur-Mer where he joined RAF evaders Sgt Albert L Wright (895) Sgt Frederick Barker (856) and Sgt Boleslaw Wosniak (859 same aircraft as Polesinski above) - and Sgt John Prendergast (865) of the Welch Regiment who had escaped from a German POW camp in April. The group got as far as Gerona before they were arrested, sent to Barcelona and then a series of prisons that ended at Miranda del Ebro. They were finally repatriated to Gibraltar in September.
F/Lt Alojzy Szkuta (786) was on the same aircraft as F/O Krawczyk (see above) when they were shot down the night of 5/6 May 1942. Szkuta landed near St Gerrard and evaded in Belgium until finding an organisation in Philippeville to help him. He was joined for a while by Sgt Siadecki (784) and Sgt Czekalski (794) from his own aircraft (they later left for Namur and were brought home by the Comete organisation) and F/O W P Wasik (971) from Wellington Z1276. Szkuta and Wasik were taken to Switzerland in early June ...
F/O W P Wasik (971) was a crewman on Wellington Z1276 which was shot down the night of 27/28 April 1942. He baled out and evaded in Belgium until meeting Szkuta after which they travelled together.
In 1944, F/Lt W P Wasik (2589) was the pilot and only survivor from Lancaster PA163 which was shot down on a raid to Stettin the night of 29/30 August and crashed into the Lovns Bredning, south-west of Alstrup in Denmark. He evaded to Sweden and was flown back to Leuchars on 27 September 1944.
F/Sgt Kenneth H L Houghton (788) was a crewman on Manchester L7373 which was shot down over Belgium the night of 13/14 October 1941. He evaded by train and stolen bicycle to Switzerland, arriving there 20 October. He was interned at Munchenbuchsee until February 1942 when he began working at the Air Attaché's office in Berne ...
On 20 June 1942, Vic Farrell arranged for Szkuta, Wasik and Houghton to be driven to Geneva. They were directed through a church-yard and over the barbed-wire fence that marked the border with France. They walked to the nearby cross-roads where they were met by a man on a bicycle who took them to his house. Another man soon arrived to take them by train to Annemasse and then overnight to Marseille. Their rendezvous was the Petit Poucet café where they contacted Mario Prassinos. Mario gave them new identity papers and another guide took them the same day to Nimes, where they stayed for a week with Gaston Negre. On 29 June, another guide took them to Toulouse where they stayed at the Hotel de Paris. Three days later Houghton was taken to Osseja and was joined next day by the two Polish officers. On 4 July a French smuggler and his wife took the three evaders across the mountains to Berga in Catalonia where they rested for a day and night before a Spanish guide and his sister collected them and took them for another two hours across the mountains to a railway station where they caught a train for Barcelona. They were sheltered in the slums of Barcelona (I don't know why they didn't go to the Consulate) until 13 July when they were taken by train to Madrid. On the train, Wasik was arrested by Spanish police, their suspicions aroused by the expensive watch, bought in Switzerland, that he was wearing. In Madrid, Houghton and Szkuta were again sheltered in a slum area, this time for just two days until they were taken to the Portuguese border, which they crossed alone near Badajoz. They walked as far at Campo Maior before surrendering themselves to the Portuguese police who handed the over to the International Police at Elvas. They were taken to Lisbon on 22 July and after two nights in prison, passed over to the British Embassy who arranged for them to be flown back to England on a British Airways Sunderland.
I'm not sure what happened to Wasik but guess that he spent some unpleasant time in various Spanish prisons until he was finally repatriated and flown home from Gibraltar on 7 November.
Following the mass break-out of internees from Fort de la Rivere in September 1942, several (Nouveau says seven or eight) of the escapers were sent to Toulouse by the Pat line and sheltered at the Hotel de Paris.
Following the German take-over of the former ZNO in November 1942, Pat O'Leary moved his centre of operations to Toulouse. Louis Nouveau was in Paris with Jean de la Olla, and Robert Leçuyras and Fabien de Cortes took over operations in Marseille. The organisation already had several valuable contacts in Toulouse, including Paul Ulmann and Marie-Louise (Françoise) Dissard, and of course Stanislas and Augustine Mongelard at the Hotel de Paris, which became Pat's new headquarters until Françoise could find him somewhere more discrete.
On 10 January 1943, Jean Bregi (aka Philippe) arrived in Toulouse with evaders 2/Lt Grady Roper (#27) 2/Lt John Trost (#28) W/Cdr John Embling (1108) Sgt Cyril Penna (1190) Sgt Jack Dawson (1160) and F/O Prince Werner de Merode (1131). They were accompanied by new Pat line recruits Roger Leneveu and Frederick Double Metre. The evaders and Jean Bregi stayed with Paul and Emelda Ulmann whilst the others were housed at the Hotel de Paris. Next day de Merode and Embling left for Bergerac and the day after that Pat O'Leary arrived with new ID cards for the evaders. Then Alex Nitelet arrived with the news that PAO radio operator Tom Groome, his courier Eddie and the Cheramys had been arrested (11 January) at Montauban. Fearing the worst, Jean Bregi took the remaining four airmen to Marseille where they were met by Fabien de Cortes and Robert Leçuyras (Albert) and lodged with Mme Therese (Maud Olga Andrée Baudot de Rouville aka Therese Martin) in her apartment on Boulevard Cassini.
According to Fred Boulle's interview with Françoise Dissard in 1946, both the Hotel de Paris and Paul Ulmann's rented villa on rue Pierre Casaneuve were abandoned at this point and O'Leary moved his headquarters to Françoise Dissard's home in rue Paul Meriel. However, other evidence suggests that either the Ulmanns moved to a new address or the villa on rue Pierre Casaneuve wasn't abandoned until after O'Leary and Ulmann's arrest on 2 March 1943. At the end of January, O'Leary moved to an apartment that Françoise had rented for him, the address on nearby rue des Puits Clos only known (supposedly) by Françoise and Renée Nouveau.
On 7 February 1943, Roger Leneveu and Frederick Double Metre arrived in Toulouse with evaders Sgt Robert M Kidd (1207) T/Sgt Miles B Jones (#29) T/Sgt Arthur B Cox (#47) and F/O Maurice Wilson RAF. They went briefly to the Hotel de Paris and then on to Paul Ulmann's home where they met 2/Lt Grady Roper (#27) and Sgt Jack Dawson (1160).
For more information on these evaders click here to read the article 'Last Days of the Pat Line'.
On 20 February 1943, the Hotel de Paris was raided by the Gestapo. Stanislas and Augustine Mongelard were arrested and later deported to Germany. Stanislas Francois Mongelard died at Nordhausen during an American air raid but Augustine survived Ravensbruck and Mauthausen and returned to France after the war.
On 2 March 1943, Pat O'Leary and Paul Ulmann were arrested at the Super Bar café in Toulouse, lured to a meeting there by Roger Leneveu. Robert Leçuyras came from Marseille that evening and reported that both their homes had been searched.
Roger Leneveu (aka Roger le Legionnaire) was the French traitor and German infiltration agent responsible for much of the Pat line's destruction in Brittany and Paris as well as Toulouse. It can be seen that he knew both the Hotel de Paris and the villa on rue Pierre Casaneuve were being used regularly by the organisation.
Most of this article comes from my own research and the many escape reports that I've collected and collated over the years but my special thanks to Stuart Christie, Luc Vervoort and Oliver Clutton-Brock for some of the additional information included here.
In 2014, Beatrice Belz sent me an article from Ladepeche.fr dated 21 January 2014, reporting on the annual commemoration by the association Francaise pour la Memoire de la Deportation (AFMD) at the present day Crowne Plaza Hotel to remember Stanilas and Augustin Mongelard, and attended by their daughters Dorlayne and Rolande.