Eliane Plewman

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Eliane Sophie Plewman
Eliane Plewman.jpg
Eliane Plewman
Birth name Eliane Sophie Browne-Bartroli
Born (1917-12-06)6 December 1917
Marseilles
Died 13 September 1944(1944-09-13) (aged 26)
Dachau, Germany
Buried at Brookwood Memorial
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Special Operations Executive
Years of service 1943-1944
Rank Ensign
Service number F/23
Unit Special Operations Executive
Battles/wars Second World War
Awards King's Commendation for Brave Conduct
Croix de Guerre 1939-1945 (France)

Eliane Plewman (6 December 1917 – 13 September 1944) was a British member of Special Operations Executive (SOE) an agent and member of the French Resistance working in the "MONK circuit" in occupied France during World War II. She was involved in a number of highly successful sabotage missions but was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo later being murdered by the SS at Dachau Concentration Camp.

Pre-war life[edit]

Plewman was born Eliane Sophie Browne-Bartroli in Marseilles, France. The daughter of a successful English manufacturer based in France, Eugene Henry Browne-Bartroli and his Spanish born wife Elisa Francesca (née Bartroli),[1] she was educated in England and in Spain at the British School in Madrid. When she finished college she moved to Leicester to work for a clothing and fabric import/export company in Albion Street, Leicester, using her language skills in English, French, Spanish and some Portuguese.[2]

World War II[edit]

After the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Eliane Plewman worked for the Press Section of the British Embassies in Madrid and Lisbon until 1941. In 1942 she went to Britain to work for the Spanish Press section of the Ministry of Information.[3] On 28 July 1942 she married Thomas Langford "Tom" Plewman of Lutterworth, Leicestershire, who had recently been commissioned an officer in the Royal Artillery,[4] their home was at 14 Queen’s Gate Terrace, Leicester.

In mid-Fenruary 1943 she joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and was accepted on 25 February 1943 for training to serve as an "agent in the field". Eliane Plewman signed the Official Secrets Act on 29 March 1943 and a second time on 19 April 1943 (this time as second lieutenant Auxiliary Territorial Service) and commenced training at Wanborough Manor at the start of May 1943[5][6] She was commissioned as an Ensign in the Women's Transport Service, First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) with service number F/23.[7]

Reverse of the 1939–1945 War Cross

On the night 13–14 August 1943 Plewman parachuted into the Jura France from a special duties bomber of No. 161 Squadron RAF. Her cover name was Eliane Jacqueline Prunier, her code names were "Gaby" and "Dean", or sometimes "Madame Dupont". She worked for Skepper as a courier in the area of Marseilles, Roquebrune and St. Raphael,[8] providing the communications link between groups of saboteurs and intelligence gathering agents, the "MONK" wireless operator Arthur Steele and other involved groups.[9] Her activities supported successful sabotage operations, see the article on Charles Skepper for details.

Major General Colin Gubbins Head of SOE wrote as a part of his recommendation for her gallantry award:

"She was dropped in the Jura and was separated from her circuit for some time.  Instead of remaining in hiding she showed outstanding initiative and made several contacts on her own which were later of great value to her circuit.  For six months Plewman worked as a courier and her untiring devotion to duty and willingness to undergo any risk largely contributed to the successful establishment of her circuit. She travelled constantly maintaining liaison between the various groups, acting as guide to newly arriving agents and transporting wireless telegraphy equipment and compromising documents." 

At this time her brother Albert John Browne-Bartroli was working as an agent for SOE in a different part of France. He survived the war and was awarded a Distinguished Service Order.[10][11]

Capture by the Gestapo[edit]

When the network was betrayed Charles Skepper was arrested on 23 or 24 March 1944 at the apartment where he was staying with his friend Villevielle at 8. Rue Merentie, the French traitor (Bousquet) and the Gestapo made the place look as normal as possible hoping to catch his contacts as they came to call. On the following day Plewman and Arthur Steele (SOE agent) visited and were also arrested.[12][13][14] At the Baumettes prison and at Gestapo headquarters in 425 Rue Paradis Marseille[15] the Gestapo tortured their three British captives by delivering very powerful electric shocks between the eyes and the results were so bad that when the British were seen by French prisoners they were almost unrecognizable.[16][17] When Skepper was seen in the Gestapo offices in the custody of Gestapo Agent Dunker by Villevielle two weeks after their arrests he also reported being unable to recognize his friend.[18] The Gestapo interrogated Plewman without success for three weeks, no other arrests were made other than of people calling at the apartment, and then transferred her to Fresnes Prison near Paris remaining there until 12 May 1944 when she joined a transport of seven British women captives including Diana Rowden, Noor Inayat Khan, Odette Sansom, Vera Leigh and Andree Borrel who travelled to the women's civil prison at Karlsruhe by train. Held with German female political prisoners they made a number of friendships with women who testified after the war.[19] One morning in July 1944 Vera Leigh, Diana Rowden, Andree Borrel and Sonia Olschanezky were transported from Karlsruhe prison to Natzweiler Concentration Camp where they were given lethal injections and their bodies cremated.[20]

Death at Dachau[edit]

During the night of 11 September 1944 the Gestapo collected Eliane Plewman, Yolande Beekman and Madeleine Damerment from the prison and drove them to Karlsruhe railway station in time to catch the early train to Munich. From there they caught a local train to Dachau and late in the evening walked to Dachau concentration camp arriving at about midnight. Between 0800 and 1000 hours the next morning, 13 September 1944, Eliane Plewman and three other SOE agents (Yolande Beekman, Madeleine Damerment and Noor Inayat Khan) were taken from their cell and forced to kneel in pairs before being executed by a single shot to the head.[21][22][23]

See also Wilhelm Ruppert SS-officer and executioner.

Memorial to Plewman and fellow agents in Dachau

Eliane Plewman is remembered on the Brookwood Memorial in Surrey (Panel 26 Column 3),[24] and the F Section Memorial, in Valencay, France.[citation needed]

Honours and awards[edit]

Major General Colin Gubbins recommended Eliane Plewman for an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) on 13 July 1945 however he was over-ruled as the statutes of the award do not allow posthumous awards and she was awarded the King's Commendation for Brave Conduct instead.[27]


War Medal 39-45 BAR MID.png

1939–1945 Star France and Germany Star War Medal with King's Commendation for Brave Conduct Croix de Guerre (France)

Notes[edit]

Post-war investigations determined very clear evidence of the fate of the group of female British SOE agents and unlike some of their colleagues, their families had detailed accounts of their time in captivity and of their deaths. Eliane Plewman's estate was settled on 25 April 1947.[28]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Birth Certificate (Consul General at Marseilles) 10/12/1917 - Eliane Sophie
  2. ^ Leicester Mercury website - Eliane Plewman
  3. ^ National Archives, London. Document HS 9/1195/1 - Eliane Sophie Plewman
  4. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35448. pp. 647–648. 6 February 1942.
  5. ^ Wanborough Manor - SOE training school
  6. ^ National Archives, London. Document HS 9/1195/1 - Eliane Sophie Plewman
  7. ^ Commonwealth War Graves Commission Ensign E S Plewman
  8. ^ Binney (2005), p.270
  9. ^ Foot (1966), p.256
  10. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37228. p. 4188. 14 August 1945.
  11. ^ Foot (1966), p.286 and 294
  12. ^ Foot (1966), p.375
  13. ^ Alliance Francaise PDF document -p.20
  14. ^ Binney (2005), p.273
  15. ^ Alliance Francaise PDF document -p.25-28
  16. ^ Binney (2005), p.274-275
  17. ^ Foot (1966), p.431
  18. ^ Alliance Francaise PDF document -p.29
  19. ^ National Archives, London. Document HS 9/1195/1 - Eliane Sophie Plewman
  20. ^ Foot (1966), p.428
  21. ^ Binney (2005), p.275
  22. ^ Foot (1966), p.429
  23. ^ National Archives, London. Document HS 9/1195/1 - Eliane Sophie Plewman
  24. ^ Commonwealth War Graves Commission Ensign E S Plewman
  25. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37693. p. 4176. 16 August 1946.
  26. ^ National Archives, London. Document HS 9/1195/1 - Eliane Sophie Plewman
  27. ^ National Archives, London. Document HS 9/1195/1 - Eliane Sophie Plewman
  28. ^ The London Gazette: no. 37887. p. 913. 21 February 1947.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Patrick Yarnold (2009). Wanborough Manor: School for secret agents. Hopfield. ISBN 0956348904. 
  • Marcus Binney (2005). Secret War Heroes. Hodder. ISBN 0-340829109. 
  • Bruce Marshall (2000). The White Rabbit. Cassell. ISBN 0-304356972. 
  • Patrick Howarth (1980). Undercover. Routledge. ISBN 0-710005733. 
  • M. R. D. Foot (1966). SOE in France. Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. ASIN B0006D68X4. 
  • M. R. D. Foot (2006). SOE in France. Routledge. ISBN 0415408008. 

External links[edit]