The Carte Organisation
It was the brainchild of André Girard, an artist who claimed to have at his command a secret army of hundreds of thousands of would-be résistants waiting to rise against the Germans once they were properly armed and led. Girard's 'secret army' existed mainly on paper and in the minds of a community of artists, musicians and students in the French Riviera.
Realistically, the organisation extended no further than the group of people around Girard and his deputy Henri Frager, plus some other small groups.
In November 1942, a list of names and addresses of hundreds of potential Carte members, drawn up by Girard, fell into the hands of the Abwehr. An assistant of Girard named André Marsac was carrying the list by train from Marseille to Paris. While Marsac slept on the train, an Abwehr agent stole the briefcase which contained the list. This fact was to have implications for the British Special Operations Executive with which Carte became entangled.
SOE agent Peter Churchill had arrived in January 1942 to evaluate the usefulness of the Carte network. He was impressed by the people he met but disagreements between Girard and Frager made it necessary for SOE to choose between them. Peter Churchill, having chosen Frager as preferable, took him to London in March 1943 to be briefed by SOE on his future role. There was no need. Carte was already doomed.
On the same night, Francis Cammaerts arrived to take Peter Churchill's place and subsequently made a much more realistic appraisal of Carte.
The following day, André Marsac, from whom the Carte list had been stolen by the Abwehr, was arrested near the Champs Élysées by Hugo Bleicher, a sergeant in the Abwehr, and incarcerated in Fresnes prison.
Bleicher, posing as an anti-Nazi colonel, convinced Marsac that he wished to defect, and the pair concocted an elaborate scheme involving the co-operation of Marsac's assistant Roger Bardet, who was persuaded by letter to visit Marsac in prison. The outcome of Bleicher's deception was the arrest on 16 April 1943 of Peter Churchill and Odette Sansom. A bonus was provided by Marsac, who supplied Bleicher with the addresses of some twenty circuits in Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Marseille.
Roger Bardet had also been arrested, and was still useful to Bleicher.
Henri Frager had returned to France to assume leadership of the new SOE Donkeyman circuit built on the remnants of Carte. Bardet, having been persuaded to betray Frager, was allowed to 'escape'. Frager was taken in by the escape story. He also fell for Bardet's offer to provide new forged identity papers for the British SOE agents working with him, and allowed photographs of the agents to be supplied to Bardet for that purpose. One of the agents was Vera Leigh. The 'forged' papers were provided by the Germans.
On 2 July 1944 Frager attended a rendezvous with Bleicher (again posing as the anti-Nazi colonel), and was arrested. The meeting had been arranged by Bardet.
Having obtained his liberty and sensing that Germany would lose the war, Bardet eventually rejoined the resistance movement.
The Abwehr's acquisition of Girard's list in November 1942 would have further implications for other SOE agents not directly involved with Carte. Francis Suttill had been given a list of contacts provided by Carte, which he used. Andrée Borrel had been instructed to contact a family in Paris who were on the list, and two sisters of the same family (arrested in April 1943) were known to several members of Suttill's Prosper network, who used them to pass on letters and also held meetings in their home.
- "Flames in the Field", by Rita Kramer, first published in 1995 by Michael Joseph Ltd, London. ISBN 0-7181-3881-3