Harold Cole

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Harold (Harry) Cole (24 January 1906 – 8 January 1946), also known as Paul Cole, was a British soldier, who assisted and later betrayed the French Resistance during World War II. According to some accounts, he caused significant damage to the Allied cause.[1] Cole was killed while resisting arrest after the war ended.

On 4 September 1939, Cole, who had recently been released from prison,[why?] enlisted in the British Army (Serial No. 1877989RE), and was assigned to an engineering unit, the 18th Field Park Company, part of the 4th Infantry Division. His unit was sent to France in late 1939 as a part of the British Expeditionary Force and was stationed in Loison-sous-Lens. Cole was promoted to Sergeant, but was taken prisoner by German forces during the Fall of France in mid-1940.

Cole escaped soon afterwards, hiding in Lille and then Marseilles, where he helped establish and operate escape lines with the French Resistance. During this period he was known as "Paul Cole".

In 1941, he was re-captured by German forces; the Gestapo persuaded Cole to collaborate and betray the escape lines he had helped to form in occupied France.[2][3] He denounced many important figures in the resistance movement including Ian Garrow and Albert Guerisse (1911–1989) of the Pat Line. It is believed Cole betrayed at least 150 members of the French Resistance, of whom 50 were executed by the Gestapo.[4] The Deputy Commander of Scotland Yard at the time, Reginald Spooner described him as "the worst traitor of the war".[5]

By the end of the war, Cole was wanted by both French and British governments, and was pursued by MI9. He was captured at Bad Saulgau in June 1945 and imprisoned at the SHAEF military prison in Paris, from which he escaped on 18 November 1945. A large manhunt was initiated for his re-capture.

On 8 January 1946, after receiving a tip, French police shot Harold Cole dead after discovering that he had been hiding on the fourth floor of a bar in the Rue de Grenelle in Paris. He was later buried in an unmarked pauper's grave in Paris.[6][7]

Further reading[edit]

  • Brendan Murphy. Turncoat: the Strange Case of Traitor Sergeant Harold Cole. Published by Macdonald & Co., Great Britain, 1987. (ISBN 0 356 15747 4).


  1. ^ Murphy, Brendan. Turncoat (ISBN 0 356 15747 4). (page 19)
  2. ^ Neave, Airey (2004) [1969]. Saturday at MI9: A history of underground escape lines in North-West Europe in 1940-45. Pen & Sword Books Ltd. ISBN 1-84415-038-0. 
  3. ^ Wake, Nancy. The White Mouse. Pan Macmillan Press, Australia. 1994. (page 50). (ISBN 0 330 35605 4)
  4. ^ Major-Gen Albert-Marie Edmond Guérisse: Pat O'Leary of the PAO Allied escape line - the 'Pat' or 'O'Leary' Line
  5. ^ Adamson, Iain (1966). The Great Detective; A Life of Deputy Commander Reginald Spooner of Scotland Yard. London: Frederick Muller Ltd. pp. 287pp. 
  6. ^ "Pat Line Couriers". Retrieved 2008-11-02. 
  7. ^ Murphy, Brendan. TURNCOAT, The Strange Case Of Traitor Sergeant Harold Cole. . Macdonald Publishers, Great Britain. 1987 (ISBN 0 356 15747 4)