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Georges Bégué was born 22 November 1911 in Périgueux, France. His father was a railway engineer and the family moved to Egypt when Bégué was a child. Bégué also trained as an engineer at University of Hull where he learned English and met his wife. He went through his military service as a signaller.
World War II
At the outbreak of World War II, Bégué was recalled to his unit. Because of his knowledge of English he was assigned to liaison with the British troops. He eventually escaped to Britain during the Dunkirk evacuation. After the surrender of France, he joined the Royal Signals as a sergeant, meeting Thomas Cadett the Paris correspondent of the BBC who was working in SOE's F section. It was suggested that Bégué be parachuted into France.
Special Operations Executive
In 1940 SOE recruited Bégué to the new French section, and gave him the alias Georges Noble. After a short training course, he was parachuted to Indre on the night of 5 May 1941 with a heavy transmitter in a suitcase. He was the first SOE agent in France. He contacted socialist Max Hymans in Valencay and eventually convinced him that he was not a trap.
Bégué settled in Châteauroux with his transmitter and sent the first message to London 9 May 1941. SOE sent three other agents, including Pierre de Vomécourt, to join him. During the following six months Bégué helped to establish resistance network and agents in France and arranged arms drops. Bégué was the main contact to SOE in London and sometimes transmitted three times a day.
His suggestion that the BBC overseas service from 1940–44, Radio Londres, would be used to overtly send pre-arranged coded messages (messages personnels) was accepted and led to widespread use, in the style of There is a fire at the insurance agency. This was to reduce radio traffic from SOE correspondents in France, and would even be used to tell SOE agents the sex of children born to their wives back in England. This culminated in the line from a French poem Les sanglots longs des violons de l’automne blessent mon cœur d’une langueur monotone which explicitly warned Resistance agents of the imminent invasion of Normandy in June 1944. The Germans knew what it meant, having earlier tortured a Resistance member, but (fortunately for the invasion's success) undue bureaucracy got in the way of propagating the message through to more-relevant commanders.
One SOE agent Gerry Morel went off his own way to recruit resistance members and Milice, the Vichy France police, arrested him at Limoges on 3 October 1941. His arrest led to more arrests and eventually to Bégué, who was arrested 24 October in a Marseilles safe house. He was sent to join other SOE agents in the Beleyme prison in Périgueux. They were later transferred to a prison camp in Mauzac on March 1942, thanks to intervention of the American Consul-General Hugh Fullerton. Bégué created a duplicate key and the group escaped 16 July 1942, and transmitted from the camp which had led to the escape.
Bégué and others hid in Mauzac in the middle of a forest and continued to Lyon on 23 July in separate groups. They contacted Vic escape network and eventually walked to neutral Spain over the Pyrenees. Bégué was interned at Figueres and sent to Miranda de Ebro prison camp but were later released to continue his way to Britain. He got to London in October 1942.
Return to Britain
Bégué was appointed Signals Officer in the F section under Maurice Buckmaster. He stayed in England, and having invaluable experience of being an SOE agent, he was not sent on any more operational duties. He was also awarded the Military Cross.
Emigration to the United States
After the war Bégué emigrated to the United States. He worked in a number of menial jobs before he could officially become an electronics engineer. He also took US citizenship.
He was married to Rosemary (from England) and had two daughters, Brigitte and Suzanne.