Mary Lindell (1895-1986), also known as the Comtesse de Milleville, the Comtesse de Moncy and Marie-Claire was a British-born nurse who lived in France and worked independently against the Nazis during the Second World War. During the First World War, she served as a member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) and subsequently with the Secours aux Blessés, a division of the French Red Cross. During the Second World War she created escape lines in occupied France, helping to get people out of the country. Despite being sentenced to death and arrested, she managed to survive the war. Two of her children were arrested by the Nazis; one was tortured severely, but survived, while the other is believed to have perished in a Nazi concentration camp.
She was decorated for her bravery and service by the French, receiving a Croix de Guerre in 1918. She was also decorated by the Tsarist Russian governments. She married the Count de Milleville, a member of the French aristocracy, and made her home in France. Following the Nazi invasion of France, Lindell worked with various Allied agencies, at considerable risk to herself and family, to help smuggle downed airmen and others to freedom on the "Pat" line (named after "Pat O'Leary", an alias of Albert Guérisse). Despite a narrow escape, which led to her finding brief refuge in her native Britain, she joined MI9 and returned to occupied France in 1942, where she learned that as the Comtesse de Milleville, she had been sentenced to death.
She organized a new escape line, the "Marie-Claire" line, after her new name. She continued to work in France until severely wounded, captured and deported to Ravensbrück concentration camp at the end of 1943. She survived in the camp hospital and was liberated in 1945.
The Lindell children were involved in their mother's work. Her son, Maurice, was interrogated and severely beaten for his activities but was released when Mary paid the Gestapo chief in Lyons, Klaus Barbie, a bribe of 45,000 francs. Her other son, Oky, was similarly interrogated and deported to a concentration camp where it is presumed he died. Lindell was subsequently recognized for her work and was also an advocate for those British civilians who were interned in Nazi concentration camps.
Film and Television
The 1991 film One Against the Wind starred Judy Davis, and was based on the biography Story of Mary Lindell: Wartime Secret Agent by Barry Wynne. She was featured in a television series called Women of Courage about four women who defied the Nazis, produced by Peter Morley, himself a German Jewish refugee. The other women were Maria Rutkiewicz, a Polish woman; Sigrid Helliesen Lund, a Norwegian; and Hiltgunt Zassenhaus, a German.
- Comet line - World War II evasion line
- Nacht und Nebel
- Albert Guérisse - "Pat" O'Leary
- Elsie Maréchal
- The Royal Air Forces Escaping Society (1994)
- "M.P. To Fight For Ex-Internees" The Times, 17 July 1963, pg 6.
- Peter Morley, Peter Morley - A Life Rewound Part 4 (PDF) British Academy of Film and Television Arts (2010), pp. 245-250. Retrieved September 29, 2011
- John Nichol and Tony Rennell, Home Run - Escape from Nazi Europe Penguin books (2007)
- "War heroine says she bribed ex-Nazi for her son's release". The Miami News. February 10, 1983.
- "One Against the Wind" at the IMDb