After the fall of France it was essential that various British and Free French agencies could maintain clandestine communities with occupied France. The Lysander flights into France are well known, but the sea links were equally important. This first of two volumes looks at the various efforts made to establish a reliable sea link between Britain and Brittany.
The missions described here were carried out for a variety of different organisations. The Free French needed to get agents and refugees in and out of France. The British SIS wanted to run agents from Brittany, SOE wanted to get agents and weapons into France and MI9 wanted to get Allied evaders safely back to the UK. In addition a number of Bretons chose to escape from German occupation by making the perilous journey across the sea to Britain.
Sir Brook Richards had two great advantages when writing these books. First, he was given access to the secret archives on the same terms as granted to the Official Historians, allowing him to use documents hidden to other historians. Second, he actually took part in some of the operations being discussed, winning the DSC for his part in these actions. There aren't many histories of this quality where 'the author' appears quite so often in the thick of the action!
There are really three strands to this story. In France there are the brave actions of the Resistance, working under German occupation with an ever present danger of arrest and execution. In Britain there are the debates between SOE, SIS and the Free French, the struggles to get suitable ships and the general background to running a flotilla of clandestine ships. Finally there are the sea voyages themselves, with the dangers of heavy seas, the rocky Breton coast, navigation, successfully meeting up with shore parties and the occasion brush with the Germans. Each of these is tackled well, and they combine to produce a gripping account of one of the most daring campaigns of the Second World War.
I - The Lost Battle for France: May-June 1940
II - The British Clandestine Services in the New Strategic Context
III - Slocum's Section and the First Operations to Northern France
IV - First Contacts with the West Coast of France
V - August-October 1940
VI - November 1940-March 1941
VII - Did the Abwehr Allow L'Emigrant to Escape
IX - SOE's Endeavours to Set up Independent Sea Transport to Brittany, 1941
X - April-November 1941
XI - October 1941-February 1942
XII - November 1941-June 1942
XIV - West Coast: November 1942-October 1943
XV - North Coast: Winter 1943-44
XVI - The Aber-Benoit Saga: November-December 1943
XVII - North Coast and the 'Var' Line: August 1943-April 1944
XVIII - The 'Shelburne' Escape Line: January-March and July-August 1944
XX - Operations for SIS: January-August 1944
XXI - Escapes by Sea from Brittany: 1940-44
Author: Brook Richards
Publisher: Pen & Sword Maritime
Year: 2012 edition of 2004 original