Henri Déricourt

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Henri Alfred Eugène Déricourt
Born (1909-09-02)September 2, 1909
Coulonges-Cohan, Aisne, France
Died November 20, 1962(1962-11-20) (aged 53)
Laos
Buried at Unknown
Service/branch Special Operations Executive
Years of service 1942–1945
Battles/wars World War II
Other work Pilot

Henri Dericourt (September 2, 1909 − November 21, 1962[1]) was a French agent for Special Operations Executive. It is unclear whether he became a double agent for the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), or was working under British instructions.

Life and work[edit]

Henri Alfred Eugène Déricourt was born in Coulonges-Cohan, Aisne, France in September 1909. As an adult he first became a civilian pilot and then French Air Force test pilot. After the defeat of France in 1940 he again became a civilian pilot.

In August 1942, Déricourt deceived local MI9 agents (Escape Service) in Marseilles and got transport to Britain where he was investigated by MI5 (Security Service) who expressed concerns about him. Nevertheless, it would seem he was subsequently recruited by MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service) before eventually having his name and credentials passed to the Special Operations Executive (SOE). On January 22, 1943, SOE sent him into occupied France with the task of organising secret aircraft landing operations in the Loire district and the transport of SOE agents to and from Britain. His work brought him into contact with the Prosper Network and others transporting over 67 SOE agents in and out of France.

However, in the summer of 1943 the SD arrested several SOE agents and French resistance fighters and it was soon reported to London by some of the remaining agents on the ground that Déricourt had had regular contact with senior SD officers. However, senior SOE people and even Maurice Buckmaster himself refused to believe the reports and Déricourt continued his work in France until February 1944. Recent evidence[which?] makes it clear that Déricourt established secret contacts with the SD straight after SOE parachuted him into France − in January 1943.

Déricourt's possible duplicity was revealed after the war when war crimes investigators (including Vera Atkins) received absolute information from German sources that Dericourt had been one of their agents, BOE48, and that the information he provided had led to the arrest and execution of several SOE agents.

After the war French authorities arrested Dericourt in November 1946. At his 1948 trial, a number of witnesses were unavailable to the prosecutors and Déricourt's own testimony was somewhat ambiguous. The prosecution case collapsed when the senior SOE figure Nicholas Bodington testified that he had authorised Déricourt to make and maintain contacts with the Germans. Déricourt was acquitted. This revelation came as a shock to all the other former SOE officers, and so began the mystery behind Bodington's testimony. Had someone authorised Bodington to give such evidence? Who had really authorised Déricourt to make contact with the Germans - and why?

Déricourt himself claimed later that SOE agents were deliberately sacrificed to distract attention from the Allied invasion plans. In fact, evidence has since emerged that Dericourt had been 'run' by MI6 throughout, and that his work for SOE had just been a cover to get him close to the Germans. This possibility was acknowledged by the SOE's Second in Command Harry Sporborg, who investigated Dericourt upon his return from France in February 1944. "There was no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Déricourt was being employed by MI6 for functions which were outside SOE's sphere of operations."

Henri Dericourt was believed killed in an aircraft accident on November 21, 1962 over Laos.[1][2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The Camouflage Project". Ohio State University. 2011. Retrieved June 17, 2012. 
  2. ^ "SOE Agents' Personal Files". National Archives. March 6, 2003. Retrieved March 8, 2012. 

Bibliography[edit]