Claude de Baissac
Claude Denis Boucherville de Baissac, DSO and bar, CdeG, known as Claude de Baissac or by his codename David (born 28 February 1907, Curepipe, Mauritius; died 22 December 1974) was a Mauritian of French descent who became an agent in the Special Operations Executive (SOE). He organised the important French Resistance network SCIENTIST, in southwest France from August 1942 to March 1943 and in Brittany from February 1944 onwards. His elder sister Lise was also an SOE agent.
World War II
His first mission came on 30 July 1942, when he and his radio operator Harry Peulevé were parachuted in from a Halifax near Nîmes to set up and head the SCIENTIST network. However, they were dropped from too low an altitude and landed badly – de Baissac broke his ankle and Peulevé was so badly hurt he had to return to England.
In the following months, de Baissac developed the SCIENTIST network in the Bordeaux region, receiving reinforcements in the form of Roger Landes (codenamed Stanislas, his new radio operator, dropped on 2 November) and Mary Herbert (codenamed Marie-Louise, his liaison officer, landed by boat on 8 November). Certain resistance group concentrated their efforts for a joint attack on the submarine pens in the port and other operations in the Landes countryside.
As explained by Paddy Ashdown in a BBC Timewatch documentary, due to "a Whitehall cock-up of major proportions", de Baissac was preparing to take explosives on board German ships in the harbour of Bordeaux when he heard explosions from the partly successful Operation Frankton. Had the Royal Marines of Operation Frankton cooperated with de Baissac, they could have jointly dealt a stronger blow, but SOE's policy of secrecy even from other parts of the British Forces prevented this.
De Baissac worked closely with Francis Suttill and his Prosper-PHYSICIAN network in Paris, before briefly returning to London on the night of 17/18 March 1943 in a Lysander to announce that the network had 11,000 men at its disposal.
In May 1943, Suttill warned de Baissac that he thought Henri Déricourt, a member of SCIENTIST, was working for the Germans just before de Baissac was parachuted back in at the full moon with new instructions. The parachute drops of men and supplied intensified, but on 23 June the Gestapo captured Suttill and hundreds of other agents and Resistance workers from Prosper-PHYSICIAN and other networks and attached groups. The SCIENTIST network was caught up in PHYSICIAN's fall and on the night of 16/17 August, Claude, Lise and Nicholas Bodington returned to England by Lysander, with Roger Landes (Aristide) replacing Claude at the head of SCIENTIST until November 1943.
In February 1944 de Baissac was parachuted into Mayenne with an all-Mauritian team made up of his sister Lise, captain Jean-Marie Renaud-Danticolle (codenamed René) and the radio operator Maurice Louis Larcher (code named Vladimir). His new mission was to amalgamate, arm and energise the Resistance groups in the region stretching from Caen to Laval. When D-Day came, he joined George Starr and his WHEELWRIGHT network in the south-west.
After the war he and Mary Herbert married.
- Biography of Claude de Baissac at Nigel Perrin's site
- Photographs of Claude de Baissac on the Special Forces Roll of Honour site
- Spartacus Educational
- Michael Richard Daniell Foot, SOE in France. An account of the Work of the British Special Operations Executive in France, 1940–1944, London, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1966, 1968 ; Whitehall History Publishing, in association with Frank Cass, 2004.
- Guy Penaud, Histoire secrète de la Résistance dans le Sud-Ouest, Éditions Sud-Ouest, 1993