Henri Déricourt

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Henri Alfred Eugène Déricourt
Born (1909-09-02)September 2, 1909
Coulonges-Cohan, Aisne, France
Died November 20, 1962(1962-11-20) (aged 53)
Buried at Unknown
Service/branch Special Operations Executive
Years of service 1942–1945
Battles/wars World War II
Other work Pilot

Henri Dericourt (September 2, 1909 − November 21, 1962)[1] was a French agent for Special Operations Executive. It is unclear whether he became a double agent for the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), or was working under British instructions when he betrayed all of his comrades.

Life and work[edit]

Henri Alfred Eugène Déricourt was born in Coulonges-Cohan, Aisne, France in September 1909. As an adult he first became a civilian pilot and then French Air Force test pilot. After the defeat of France in 1940 he again became a civilian pilot.

In August 1942, Déricourt deceived local MI9 agents (Escape Service) in Marseilles and got transport to Britain where he was investigated by MI5 (Security Service) who expressed concerns about him. Nevertheless, it would seem he was subsequently recruited by MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service) before eventually having his name and credentials passed to the Special Operations Executive (SOE). On January 22, 1943, SOE sent him into occupied France, with the task of organising secret aircraft landing operations in the Loire district and the transport of SOE agents to and from Britain. His work brought him into contact with the Prosper Network and others, transporting over 67 SOE agents in and out of France.

In the summer of 1943 the SD arrested several SOE agents and French resistance fighters, it was soon reported to London by some of the remaining agents, that Déricourt had had regular contact with senior SD officers. Senior SOE people and even Maurice Buckmaster refused to believe the reports and Déricourt continued his work in France until February 1944. Recent evidence[which?] makes it clear that Déricourt established secret contacts with the SD, straight after SOE parachuted him into France − in January 1943.

Déricourt's possible duplicity was revealed after the war, when war crimes investigators (including Vera Atkins) received absolute information from German sources that Dericourt had been one of their agents, BOE48 and that the information he provided had led to the arrest and execution of several SOE agents.

The French authorities arrested Dericourt in November 1946. At his 1948 trial, a number of witnesses were unavailable to the prosecutors and Déricourt's own testimony was somewhat ambiguous. The prosecution case collapsed, when the senior SOE figure Nicholas Bodington testified that he had authorised Déricourt to make and maintain contacts with the Germans and Déricourt was acquitted. This revelation came as a shock to all the other former SOE officers and so began the mystery behind Bodington's testimony. Had someone authorised Bodington to give such evidence? Who had really authorised Déricourt to make contact with the Germans - and why?

Déricourt claimed later, that SOE agents were deliberately sacrificed, to divert attention from the Allied invasion plans. In fact, evidence has since emerged, that Déricourt had been run by MI6 throughout and that his work for SOE had been a cover to get him close to the Germans. This possibility was acknowledged by the SOE's Second in Command Harry Sporborg, who investigated Déricourt upon his return from France in February 1944. "There was no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Déricourt was being employed by MI6 for functions which were outside SOE's sphere of operations."

Déricourt was tried and acquitted in France after the war. But Déricourt’s reputation was destroyed and he went through a lean spell before returning to his profession as a pilot. In the 1950s he found employment with Aigle Azur, Air Liban, and SAGETA (Société Auxiliaire de Gérance et de d'Exploitation Transport Aeriens) before getting himself involved in drug running activities in Indochina.

Officially employed by the government airline Air Laos, he flew a twin-engined Beech 18 (C-45) for Air Laos Commerciale, which went by the name ‘Air Opium’. The drug trade was organized by Bonaventure ‘Rock’ Francisci of the Corsican Mafia. The loads of raw opium were picked up on dirt strips in Northern Laos, for drop points in South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Gulf of Thailand for onward transport to the Marseilles ‘French Connection’ heroin trade.

On 21 November 1962, Henri Déricourt took off from Vientiane for Sayaboury with a load of gold and four passengers. Due to fuel starvation the plane crashed short of the landing strip. There were no survivors in the burned out wreck. [1][2] [3]


  1. ^ a b "The Camouflage Project". Ohio State University. 2011. Retrieved June 17, 2012. 
  2. ^ "SOE Agents' Personal Files". National Archives. March 6, 2003. Retrieved March 8, 2012. 
  3. ^ Robert Marshall, 'All the King's Men' (Collins, 1988) ISBN 0-00-217786-2