Michel Hollard

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Michel Hollard
World War II portrait of Michel Hollard
World War II portrait
Born (1898-06-10)June 10, 1898
Épinay-sur-Seine, Eure, France
Died July 16, 1993(1993-07-16) (aged 95)
Ganges, Hérault, France
Resting place Gorniès, Hérault, France
43°53′29.13″N 3°37′32.78″E / 43.8914250°N 3.6257722°E / 43.8914250; 3.6257722
Nationality  France
Education Engineer
Occupation French wartime resister
Organization Réseau AGIR, French Resistance
Known for Investigation of the V-1 flying bomb facilities in Northern France during World War II
Spouse(s) Yvonne Gounelle
Children Francine, Florian ( former conductor of the Orchestre symphonique de la région Centre) and Vincent
Parent(s) Auguste Hollard
Pauline Monod
Website www.michel-hollard.com

Michel Hollard (June 10, 1898 - July 16, 1993) was a member of the French wartime resistance and engineer, who founded[1] the espionage group Réseau AGIR during World War II.

His contribution was recognised by the British by the award of the Distinguished Service Order for having "reconnoitered a number of heavily guarded V-1 sites and reported on them". Hollard's efforts included 49 trips smuggling reports to a British attaché in Switzerland by foot across the border in all weather.

Sir Brian Horrocks called him "the man who literally saved London".[2] Thanks to Hollard's reports and information from his agents, the V1 launch sites in France were systematically bombed by the Royal Air Force between mid-December 1943 and March-end 1944. V-1s caused the destruction of over 80,000 homes in Britain between June and September 1944, but British air raids destroyed nine V1 sites, badly damaged 35 and partially damaged another 25 out of the 104 located in the North of France across North-Eastern Normandy to the Strait of Dover. In his book Crusade in Europe General Eisenhower wrote that had the Germans been able to develop their weapons six months earlier and to target Britain's south coast, Operation Overlord would have been near impossible, or not at all possible.[citation needed]


Initially serving in World War I, Hollard subsequently became an engineer.[3] Working for an armament firm, he fled Paris after the French capitulation in 1940 to rally his firm's HQ in the Free Zone in the south of France and was nearly mobbed twice on his way by frantic French crowds, who thought he was a German paratrooper. He later resigned from his post when his company began working for the occupant and gained employment with a manufacturer of wood gas generators, which enabled him to travel around France using his job as a cover. In 1941 Hollard crossed the defenses barring access to the French Free Zone and the Swiss border for the first time to offer his services as a spy to the British embassy in Bern. He was greeted icily despite recommendations and intelligence about France's wartime automotive manufacturing capabilities that he had brought with him to show his goodwill. When he came back, the second meeting was much warmer since the British had made the necessary checks about him. He founded the Réseau AGIR resistance network in 1941, working directly for the Secret Intelligence Service. Hollard and his agents began to supply regular information of the highest quality, leading Hollard to be considered one of the most reliable sources working for the British.

But he was captured on 5 February 1944 with three of his agents in a café near Gare du Nord in Paris after having been betrayed. Taken prisoner by the Nazis, he was tortured and subjected to waterboarding five times, and imprisoned first at Fresnes Prison and in June 1944 as a forced laborer at the main Neuengamme concentration camp (prisoner "F 33,948").[4]

He was then placed with hundreds of other men in dreadful conditions, without food, salubrity or medical attention, on board the prison ship Thielbek that was part of a flotilla of German prison boats in the Bay of Lübeck alongside the SS Cap Arcona. All prisoners were in fact going to be executed under direct orders from Himmler. Count Folke Bernadotte, who was Vice-President of the Swedish Red Cross, had been informed by the British Intelligence Service that Hollard was there, but was unable to locate him, so pleaded that "all French-speaking prisoners be transferred to another ship", the Magdalena. This happened on April 20; on May 3, the Thielbek was sunk by a Royal Air Force attack on the German flotilla. Of the 2,800 prisoners on board, only 50 survived the attack.

V-1 site no. 685, Val Ygot near Ardouval (Seine-Maritime, France); a V-1 on a reconstructed ramp torso.

After the war, Hollard "was given the rank of Colonel".[1][5]

A high-speed train that operates Eurostar's high-speed rail service between Britain, France and Belgium via the Channel Tunnel was named after him.[6]

A Huguenot descendant, one of his ancestors was the pastor, Jacques Monod. His father was the nuclear physicist, chemist and historian, Auguste Hollard. He is a cousin of the scientist and explorer, Théodore Monod and of the Nobel Prize winner, Jacques Monod.


  1. ^ a b "Michel Hollard: Heros de la Resistance" (in French). Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  2. ^ Lee, Bruce (2001). Marching orders: the untold story of World War II (Google Books). p. 226. Retrieved 2010-02-11. 
  3. ^ "What happened to Michael Hollard, the man who saved London". TheAnswerBank.co.uk. 18 June 2001. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  4. ^ Florian Hollard (2005), Michel Hollard: le Français qui a sauvé Londres (in French), Le Cherche Midi, p. 214, 
  5. ^ "Profile: WWII spy Michel Hollard". BBC.co.uk. 27 April 2004. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  6. ^ "Eurostar tribute to WWII hero". BBC News. 27 April 2004. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 

External links[edit]