Pierre Culioli

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Pierre Culioli (1912–1994), was a French tax officer who, during the Second World War, led the ADOLPH resistance network in the region of Tours, Orléans and Vierzon. In late 1942 this was attached to the PHYSICIAN-Prosper group founded by Francis Suttill, which was part of section F (French Section) of SOE.

He was arrested by the Germans in Dhuizon on 21 June 1943 at the beginning of the collapse of the Prosper network and was deported and held in various places, including Buchenwald, but managed to escape.

Biography[edit]

Culioli was born in Brest in 1914 and in 1938 married Ginette Dutems, a mayor's daughter from Mer who died in June 1940, a victim of a bombing raid. In appearance he was unprepossessing—a small, slight wiry man with a nervous manner, horn-rimmed spectacles, and a toothbrush moustache, allegedly grown in derision of Hitler's own.

He was the son and the grandson of French Army officers and himself became a regular French infantry lieutenant. He took part in the disastrous summer campaign of 1940, and was taken prisoner; however, he was soon repatriated on medical grounds and following his wife's death devoted himself to anti-Nazi activity in the middle Loire Valley.

Under Raymond Flower, SOE's first organiser in his neighbourhood, he came to run a sub-section of the vast 'Prosper' network that reached from the Belgian border to the Atlantic coast. His group settled in the Sologne, where it was known as the 'Reseau Adolphe', the 'Adolph Network'. Culioli posed as a forestry official, and settled down in a woodland cottage near Romorantin with his cover 'wife' and fellow agent Yvonne Rudelatt ('Jacqueline'), who acted as a courier. They ran an efficient small circuit, preparing for an expected major Allied landing in 1943.

In mid-June 1943 they received a pair of Canadian SOE officers, and all four of them set off on 21 June, in a car driven by Culioli, to catch a train to Paris. In the town of Dhuizon they were stopped at a temporary check point. Between Culioli and Rudellat on the front seat of the car lay a radio disguised as a lunch box which Culioli said contained sausage; a German soldier sensed the nervousness of his passengers when he questioned Culioli and Rudellat about this, and so opened the tin and on seeing the radio said to Culioli, "A Sausage eh? Well, I think this will be sufficient to end your need for sausage for ever!" The Canadians got out and Culioli suddenly sped off, with Rudallat and crashed the car into a wall, intending to kill them both. Although the car was riddled with bullets both survived, to be sent to concentration camps. Jacqueline died in Belsen just after it was liberated, and as she had been incarcerated under a false name was buried in a mass grave. Culioli just survived Buchenwald, and managed to escape from captivity whilst being transferred from one camp to another at the end of the war.

In 1947-49 he became the innocent centre of a cause celebre; he was falsely accused of having betrayed the whole Prosper network which had been rolled up immediately after his arrest. This was on the strength of some information Culioli had given to the Germans, which had betrayed about half the supplies sent to the group. Found guilty at his first trial, Culioli was triumphantly acquitted at his second in 1949.

He never fully recovered from his spell in Buchenwald, or from his post war experiences. In 1950 he was the subject of a book written by Abbé Guillaume, La Sologne au temps de l'heroisme et de la trahison which served to clear his reputation as far as the general public was concerned, and he became viewed as a war hero. He died near Blois 8 August 1994.

References[edit]

  • M. R. D. Foot SOE: an Outline History of the Special Operations Executive, 1940-1946. London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1984 ISBN 978-0-7126-6585-8
  • M. R. D. Foot, Obituary in The Independent newspaper, 5 September 1994.