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Frédérique Dupuich - the real Miss Richards
On 12 July 1941, Arnold Deppé, a thirty-two year old cinema technician, took twenty-four year school-teacher's daughter Andrée De Jongh on her first journey along the route that he had pioneered from Belgium to Spain. They would stop off with Renée Boulanger in Hamelet, near Corbie (where they would cross the ‘red line' from the militarised Belgium and Nord into Occupied France) before going on to Paris. In the French capital, they stayed overnight with one of Arnold Deppé's aunts (Mme Pybus) at her Pension de Famille near the Gare d'Austerlitz before taking the train to Bayonne and Anglet.
Deppé, who had friends in the Bayonne area, had already recruited some prospective helpers – including a Basque refugee named Alejandro Elizalde, and the guides Manuel Iturrioz and Tómas Anabitarte - who subsequently led the first twelve parties of evaders across the mountains. On his first trip, in June, when he had taken two Frenchmen, Arnold had also recruited Elvire De Greef who agreed to arrange accommodation for the evaders. On this trip, Arnold was taking a party of ten Belgians who wanted to get to England.
One of the party was a woman. In Airey Neave's 1954 book ‘Little Cyclone' she is referred to as Miss Richards and described as a plump, middle-aged Englishwoman with a Panama hat. The story goes on to be less than flattering ...
Neither Neave nor Andrée De Jongh (who must have been the source for the story) seemed to realise that the persona of ‘Miss Richards' was a disguise and that she was in fact a Belgian secret agent named Frédérique Dupuich (aka Freddy). Far from being a sort of female Billy Bunter character, she was actually a lot nearer to the equally fictional, George Smiley.
Born in January 1900 in Brussels, Freddy Dupuich had been educated at the Brussels Ecole Supérieure de Secrétariat, a private institution for higher education, and with a Bachelor Degree, was fluent in French, English and Italian, along with a working knowledge of Dutch and German. Following the German occupation of Belgium, she worked briefly as a nurse in the French military hospital at Suresne (Seine-et-Oise) before returning to Belgium where she joined a Belgian underground network called Clarence, collecting military and industrial intelligence in north and west Brussels. By July of 1941, Freddy decided it was time to leave Brussels and take the latest intelligence from Clarence to London. She was aware of the DD (Deppé De Jongh) line and contacted them ...
On arrival in Spain, Freddy (like so many others) was arrested and sent to Irun where she was fined for having crossed the Spanish border illegally. She was held until 6 August when intervention by the Belgian Consul (to whom she had sent a note) had her released and she took a train to Madrid and then Algerciras on the way to a sister who lived in Tangiers. From North Africa, she crossed to Gibraltar (17 August) and was brought to England by sea, arriving at Liverpool on 12 October 1941. Note that Freddie paid all her own travel expenses from Brussels, which were only repaid to her after the war.
In London, Freddy joined the Political Warfare and Propaganda department of the Belgian Sureté, becoming executive officer of the Belgian PWE section under Georges Aronstein. However, it seems that wasn't enough for the doughty Belgian because she then volunteered to be sent back to Occupied Europe.
Freddy Dupuich went through the SOE agent training program (but was never an SOE agent) including wireless operations (at which she was not very good) parachute training and Lysander operations, qualifying in early 1944. She was scheduled to go into France in March 1944 but various operational problems – including having a suitably qualified reception party for the Lysander, bad weather and finally the Normandy landings in June - meant that her departure was seriously delayed ...
Freddy was delivered into Occupied France by 161 SD Lysander, landing at around three in the morning of 6 August 1944 near Genillé (Indre-et-Loire) north-east of Loches. Her mission (Socrates) was to provide financial support to the Belgian resistance and to liaise with the Clarence intelligence network. With the codename “Constantin” her false French papers gave her name as Frédérique Denis of 10 rue Montalivet, Paris.
Her file in the Belgian MoD Ondersectie Notariaat Archieven says that during her time working for State Security in London: “With ardour and tenacity, she devoted herself totally to the intelligence service in its fight against the enemy. Compromised by her activities, she escaped Belgium and spontaneously offered to undertake a perilous mission in occupied territory. She gave a magnificent example of unselfish patriotism.” Her exploits in France earned her the King's Medal for Courage, the Croix de Guerre avec Palme, the Chevalier de l'ordre de Leopold III for exceptional service rendered to her country, the Croix des Evades, the Resistance Medal, the General Service Medal with clasp and the France and Germany campaign medals.
Following her mission to France, Freddy was made an ARA (Agent de Renseignement et Action) captain. She became a Welfare Officer with ALFSEA (Allied Land Forces in South East Asia) in Malaysia, Sumatra, Bombay, Singapore and Hong Kong. Miss Frédérique Dupuich retired to Dorset in England where she died in her sleep in November 1976.
Much of the information for this article is gratefully received from Philippe Connart of evasioncomete.org