SOE DF-SECTION, VIC ESCAPE LINE.
Net als Tobias hebben voor hem ook een aantal Nederlanders gebruik gemaakt van de zogenaamde VIC Line om naar Engeland te ontkomen. In de TNA HS8 serie zitten een aantal files waarin Nederlanders genoemd worden, meestal onder een alias. Ook hebben de Nazi's geprobeerd van de VIC Line gebruik te maken om deze van binnen uit op te kunnen rollen. Een aantal van deze lieden deden zich als Nederlander voor. Zij werden echter opweg naar Spanje op de laatste etappe in de buurt van Perpignan echter gearresteerd en wel door hun eigen mensen! De VIC Line is één van de organisaties die in- en exfiltratie van mensen, goederen en berichten op zich nam. Aan het hoofd van deze organisatie stond VICTOR GERSON. De VIC Line was onderdeel van de sectie DF van Special Operations Executive met aan het hoofd Overste Humpfries. Naast kantoren in Engeland had SOE DF-Section ook vestigingen in Lisabon (FA), Madrid (VM), Cairo MASSINGHAM (D/FS), Gibraltar (HM), Barcelona (VB) en Bilbao (D/FG).
De VIC organisatie bestaat in januari 1944 feitelijk uit drie groepen, één in Parijs, één in Lyon en één in Perpinan.
De groep in Parijs bestaat uit JULIEN (Mitterand) die aan het hoofd staat. Hij is ongeveer 35 jaar, was werkzaam in de regering en is een oude vriend van GEORGES (Henry Levin).
CLAUDE is zijn koerierster, een weduwe van een leger officier, ongeveer 35 jaar en heel betrouwbaar.
Verder zijn er nog GERMAINE (koerierster van ongeveer 50 jaar), HORTENSE, BINARD en GERARD (Dr. Piere Morax).
In Lyon staat GEORGES (Henri Levin) aan het hoofd met VICTOR (Rashlin), broer van LUCIEN (Ariel). VICTOR is gearresteerd, hij werkte al samen met MARTIN in Toulouse.
Medewerkers zijn: LOUISE (Lefort), kleermaakster en ARLETTE, zij is madame GERARD of the Salon de Coinffure.
De Pergignan groep bestaat uit MARTIN (Martinez) als hoofd van de Spaanse groep. Zijn assistent is EMMANUEL, een Spanjaard, en zijn koerierster is MARGA. Verder bevind zich DENISE hier, zij vormt de verbinding tussen MARTIN en SOE-DF.
In Narbonne beschikt de VIC Line over PEDRO en LUIS. Beiden zijn Spanjaarden, zij vervoeren personen van Narbonne naar Perpignan.
In Figueras staat PIERRE ter beschikking van MARTIN, hij bevindt zich momenteel in de gevangenis in Spanje.
Hoe het vervoeren van personen precies te werk ging valt in het volgende document van HS8-173 te lezen:
"The body contacts are all dead-houses. They are connected indirectly by telephone, that is, through a cut-out, with one of the couriers in the town concerned. When the body arrives at a contact, the contact phones the cut-out and by a pre-arranged word or message, makes the contact understand that he wants the courier to call round and see him. The indirect contact or cut-out is connected with the courier by telephone, but it is the courier who can telephone the cut-out and not the cut-out the courier. This, of course, obliges the courier to maintain a daily telephone contact with the cut-out, but it is the safest method and after the trouble we had with DEMAND I consider it advisable to adapt this method.
On receiving a telephone message, the courier goes to the body contact, takes the body to one of the safehouses assigned to that particular contact, where they remain until removed further down the Line. The bodies are not allowed out, though unfortunately we have had cases where men have disobeyed instructions and have gone out and caused us trouble.
When the bodies are to be removed from the safehouse, they are taken out of the safehouse by a courier, who takes them to a pre-arranged meeting place in the town, say, a street, or park - and hands them over to another courier, who takes charge of the bodies and moves them down the Line. When possible and in most casese, we remove bodies at night and usually move them in and out of the houses in a roundabout way, to prevent them, as far as possible, from remembering where they actually slept.
The second courier who has taken charge of the body does not know the safehouse from which that particular body has been taken, so that if anything went wrong during the transit of that body, the courier in question, if caught with the body, could not give the house away, even underpressure, as she does not know where where the body was actually taken from. When the body is being taken by train or walked through a town, it naturally does not move about with the courier, but follows him. In the case of bodies being moved from Lyon to Perpignan when they arrive in Lyon they are not taken to the internal contact, but are told to wait in some public place while the courier goes round to the internal contact and reports that she has brought a body or bodies down. A local courier then goes and takes charge of the bodies and conveys them to the local safehouse, where they remain until they are moved down to Perpignan.
All our safehouses are to-day able to feed the bodies, thus enabling us to ensure that the bodies do not go out during their stay at these houses. They are amply provided with food and cigarettes. The internal contact in Lyon is the most important contact we have, as it acts as a turn-table for the whole organisation. Paris and Perpignan are naturally in constant contact with it. Contact is made at least twice a day to ensure that nothing fresh has happened since the last time someone called there. This is a small Teinturerie and Blanchisserie. The lady who attends to the shop, whom I have known for over two years, is all alone and she sleeps on the premises. As she also mends stockings, she always has a few ladies silk stockings in the window. By the way she sets her stockings in the window we know whether she wants us to to call in. This enables us to avoid calling in the shop unnecessarily. It is only used by people in the organisation and all members calling from outside or returning from a journey call on her to leave a note reporting that they are back As it has two entrances, this also facilitates matters.
We have in our circuit in Lyon a Branch Post Office; the manager works hand-in-hand with us. We use the Poste Restante in a round-about way. It works as follows: - If, for instance, we want to maintain contact with someone to whom we do not want to give a contact address where he can get us at, we give him a pseudonym, for example Jean Delettre. So, when this particular persons wants to get in touch with us, the meeting place having been pre-arranged, he writes the letter to Jean Delettre, stating that he will meet him at, say 3 o'clock next Wednesday. He adresses the letter to our paticular Post Office Poste Restante. All the Poste Restante letters at this particular office (the same is, I daresay done in other Branch Post Offices), are first dealt by the Manager. The Manager has a list of our pseudonyms, as we keep giving them right and left when required. He takes out this particular letter, when he sees one of our pseudonyms, hands it over to one of his staff, who also works with us, who on her way home at lunchtime or in the evening, drops it in our local post box; so that Poste Restante letters reach us without anyone having to call for them, and there is absolutely no risk for us. I consider this method absolutely watertight.
The body contacts in Lyon are connected with us by this method. A body calling at either of the two contacts in Lyon is immediately notified to us by a Poste Restante letter and a few hours later a courier calls on the contact. The same system is used for the body contact in Montpellier and for advising the safe arrival of bodies that have moved down the line to Perpignan.
As explained, we have in Lyon and Paris contacts solely reserved for this purpose. When a man calls to collect money by our system of numbers. CLAUDE, who is the courier connected with this contact, is immediately advised. She goes and gets the number that has been left by the courier, takes it to JULIEN, who goes round to see BINARD, compares it with the list held by the latter and if in order returns with the money, hands it over to CLAUDE, who in return deposits it with the contact, and the caller returns later for the money.
This of course applies to Paris. the same system works in Lyon.
Any mail deposited in Lyon or Paris is moved down the line to Perpignan twice a month and taken across the border to our Postal contact in Figueras twice a month. Up to the time of writing this system has worked very well.
I made all arrangements for the storing and moving of these goods, but when I left Perpignan, although these goods were supposed to have left Switzerland a month previously, they had not arrived.
We have one line which is entirely manned by our own people. Every single man on the Line is in our pay, but we also use what I call our Ligne Auxiliairs, which is a Line not entirely in our hands, but given sufficient bodies, we could obtain from the people who run this Line authority to have one of guides as an accompanying guide, and eventually run the thing as our own. Unfortunately, however, during the last few months we have not had sufficient bodies to maintain two lines running, so I have not been able to put the idea into practice. Since last May, when I reorganised the exfiltration after the trouble we had in March and April, I have sent through (that is, between the MITRANI Group and the VIOLET Group), 19 parties, of average of 4. Of these, only one party of four DUTCHMAN was lost in France. Of the remaining 18, two parties - which were the LUCIEN party and the FARAGGI party were caught in Spain. This leaves sixteen parties out of nineteen, safely dilivered to the Consulate in Barcelona.
The cadence of departures could be increased. Our own Line could make a regular crossing once a week, and the auxiliary line could make easily two. Thus, by these means we could evacuate between twenty five and thirty bodies per month, without having to increase the staff or enlarge the organisation.
At times we have found it difficult moving bodies down the line, particularly from Narbonne to Perpignan, as at times contols there are very strict, it is pretty dangerous. we have found that instead of taking the men straight through to perpignan, at difficult times it is safer to adopt the following route: Narbonne to Carcassonne by train; Carcassonne to Guillan by michelin (?) and from Guillan to Perpignan by bus. When the bodies are moved down the line from Lyon in any case they have to take the train to Narbonne. On that particular day someone from Perpignan is always travelling up to Narbonne and if he considers it too dangerous to take the train from Narbonne to Perpignan, he takes the party to Perpignan in a roundabout way. This, unfortunately, is very tiring for the bodies, as instead of arriving at Perpignan early in the morning and having a day's rest before they leave the same evening, they continue travelling all day and arrive in Perpignan an hour before they set off on their long walk.
This how our own Line actually works: - The question of arrival and depatures, of course, is sometimes elastic. On the night of the departure, the party is grouped in one of our safehouses, where they receive the final briefing on behaviour en route, what they have to say if caught, where and when they will change over couriers or guides, etc, etc. They leave Lyon by the night train. They arrive at Narbonne early in the morning, about seven o'clock. The courier who accompanies the party is met in Narbonne by one or two of MARTIN's people. The decision is than made, whether they are to go straight through to Perpignan or round the Carcassonne-Guillan route. When they arrive in Perpignan, according to circumstances, they are either taken to safehouses or to the park. In the evening, when they are to leave Perpignan, they are taken out of the town by one of MARTIN's men, who meets the guides outside town. They then put on their sandshoes and start on their night's walk. The following morning, having gone through the Zone Interdite, at a pre-arranged meeting place somewhere south of Gerret, they meet two other guides, to whom they are handed over. They then continue during the day walking and resting. The guides carry food and wine for the party. The actual crossing of the frontier is made in daylight, but the guides are very careful, one of them remaining with the party, the other acting as scout. The same evening, that is the evening of the first day, they meet the Spanish guide, who takes them through the Frontier Zone on the Spanish side. About 11 or 12 o'clock they arrive at a farm, where they rest and feed for the rest of the night and the following day. Then they set off for Figueras. the car is usally brought to the party a few kilometres outside Figueras and then they are taken into Barcelona.
The contact I was given in Figueras last September worked very well, as the party that left France before me were stranded in Figueras because there was too much control on the road and the car refused to go. When I arrived I immediately sent word through to Barcelona; a Consulate car was sent down for me and I was taken to Barcelona. We them made arrangements to have the party that was in abeyyance in Figueras at the safehouse, removed to Barcelona by goods train. This worked smoothly.
When the parties come through the auxiliary line it usually takes them longer, but the going is not difficult. As I came through on the line myself this time, I was able to note with satisfaction that the guides are very thorough. The food question has improved considerauly and I do not think any of the men can complain that they go hungry. A safehouse is provided on the Spanish side. What we will require and I am confident that we shall have before the nights get shorter, is a safehouse between Perpignan and Ceret, as during the shorter nights it will be impossible to do that journey in one stretch. The actual time, within a few hours, from Perpignan to Figueras, where the car is taken, is about 30 to 35 hours: actually walking 22 to 24 hours. the longest stretch is from Perpignan to Ceret - about 12 hours. The most dangerous part is between Ceret and the time when you are handed over to the Spanish guide on the Spanish side of the frontier; and the most difficult part is the walk through the Spanish Frontier Zone.
The system that was adapted before I left last time has worked very smoothly. We usually get confirmation of the arrival of bodies in Barcelona seven to eight days after they have left Perpignan. The message you also send us to advise the arrival of bodies at particular towns are very useful and should be continued, as they enable the Organiser in that particular town to be on the look out and to advise his contacts that someone is arriving.
Though Demand. This man was responsible for several casualties we sustained last September (1943). It was all through his carelessness and disobeying orders. When he arrived at the contact he was given, he was taken to a safehouse, but instead of staying out, he returned to the contacts and made friends with them and went out with them. When the four members of the DORMER party were arrested, they gave away the contact; how and why I don't know. The fact remains that verry shortly after they were arrested, the contact was raided by the Gestapo and the couple were arrested. Under pressure the husband or wife told the Gestapo where DEMAND was staying. When he was arrested, he not only gave away what he knew this time, but he also gave away what he knew on his first trip; that was when he was a member of the first SCULLION Group. Through him Ville d'Avray, that is the HALAN (?) were arrested; the Uzes contact was raided; Mr. REISS and Mr. GODCHAUD, who were both working for us, were arrested; JACQUELINE, our courier, was arrested; the CANARDELS also would have been arrested, but fortunately we had already sent them to England. HORTENSE's home, at least where she lived, was raided, but fortunately she was not there. DEMAND also gave away the password, also names and descriptions of GEORGES, LUCIEN and myself.
We have been able to obtain these details because when the Uzes establishment was raided there was a woman cutter who happened to be on the premises and who was taken prisoner at the same time. She was confronted with DEMAND, but as he did not know her and as in fact she had no connection with our organisation whatsoever, the Gestapo released her three days later. We saw her later. She was able to give us a few details which prove that DEMAND is trying to save his life by working with the Gestapo. He said in front of her to GODCHAUD that in any case he was going to be shot and that is why he had decided to tell the truth. GODCHAUD said he did not know him and had never seen him in his life. What has happened to him since we don't know, unfortunately. He was sitting at the table with the German interrogator and REISS and GODCHAUD and the woman were standing in front of him, whilst they had a meal. They were asked who ALEXANDER was, which proves that they knew the password. They were asked if they knew LUCIEN, RENE, GEORGES - which proves that he had told them all he knew about us.
ETIENNE: This man, very active and useful, was acting as GEORGES' number one man before VICTOR. he accompanied the party of DUTCHMEN to Perpignan. He handed them over to MARTIN's men and has never been heard of since. We have not been able trace his whereabouts. We believe that he was arrested on the train on his way back - why, we do not know. We, ofcourse, took all necessary steps immediately to make changes necessitated by his arrest.
MARTIN GROUP. In the MARTIN group we have had two arrests. One of the guides who was acting as a head man for the Geret Group of guides, and courier between Perpignan and Geret, was arrested on his way back across the frontier after having been in contact with a Spanish guide. This arrest was most unfornunate as he was a very useful man, We have now a man in training and hope to be able to replace him before long.
In Spain, MARTIN's man PIERRE who took over the party as they arrived in Spain and handed them over to the Consulate, was arrested last month. I believe that his arrest is connected with black market dealings. PINSENT in Barcelona told me that they hope to get him out very soon.
Op 3 december 1943 verschijnt er een rapport van de assistent van het sectiehoofd over een rapport van Victor Gerson dat op 28 oktober 1943 is binnengekomen:
"Reference VIC's report of 28th October 1943, the following action is required:
Obtain confirmation from VM (Madrid) or VB (Barcelona) that the mechanism of giving VIC a receipt for his mail is now functioning.
VIC says he cannot take women on his line. He also states that he has Madame LAVIGNE and MARCELLE on his hands and wants instructions. These should be sent to him via GOLDSMITH. It appears from his report that Madame LAVIGNE is already in VIC's hands and that he is taking steps to collect MARCELLE.
MARBELS. Confirm with VM (Madrid) or VB (Barcelona) that arrangements are ready to receive the MARBELS at FIGUERAS and that the necessary mechanism for the receipt is in working order.
DUTCH SITUATION. ARNAUD and PHARMACIE.
We should find out from VIC how the decision to bring ARNAUD out was made.
We should tell GEORGES (Levin) that the two Dutchmen who should have turned up about 25th July are no longer expected. (Kunnen dit Dourlein en Ubbink zijn?)
We should tell GEORGES that we will send no further bodies to either PECLET or PHARMACIE and that we are giving VINIPRIX a rest.
Check with VIC the inter-relations between VINIPRIX and PHARMACIE (I suggest that this is the same family)
Check wheter the ALEXANDRE password was ever given to GOLF and, in the affermative, what about changing the password."
Wie is deze ARNAUD die waarschijnlijk in oktober 1943 gebruik maakte van de VIC-Line? Een Duitse infiltrant? Of iemand die niet op de hoogte was dat hij gebruikt werd? Hij was passeur op de Broadbean-Golf Line.
Is GOLF Willem van der Wilden? Hij was marconist van Gerrit van Os. Werd in de nacht van 18 op 19 februari 1943 bij Loenen op de Veluwe gedropt.. Hij werd meteen na de landing gearresteerd. In Mauthausen (A) op 6 september 1944 vermoord. Heeft de Abwehr deze line opgezet met gebuikmaking van de operatie namen van Willem van der Wilden en Grrit van Os.
Op 8 december 1943 schrijft het bureau van SOE-DF in Barcelona een rapport over de laatste drie susccesvolle operaties van de VIC Line. Hieronder is de transcriptie te lezen. De genoemde APOLLO is Jan van Schelle. Hij zat samen met Johan Grün in een RAF toestel dat in de buurt van Malines in België in de nacht van 18 op 19 oktober 1944 crashte. Hij moest geld afleveren ten bate van een escape-line van Nederland naar Brussel en uitzoeken waarom een aantal piloten op een Belgische escape-line verdwenen waren. Jan van Schelle was op 20 december weer terug in Engeland.
To: D/F VB/DF/39
Copy to VM and FA
From: VB 8-12-43
1. You will no doubt be wanting a report on the last three successful operations on the above line.
2. ISODORE On the 23rd November EDITH reported that four men were in her safehouse at CREAMTOWN (Figueras). As I later discovered, these were ISODORE and party (one JK (French) doctor and two BT (American) pilots, the names of whom I sent you). EDITH said she was trying to get these bodies down to BUFFTOWN (Barcelona) by goods wagon and I told her to carry on, but it took her about 5 days to fix the goods train personnel.
3. I was therefore getting restless when on November 27th EDITH announced that two more bodies had arrived at CREAMTOWN (Figueras) and brought me a written message from VIC (Gerson) informing me that he had arrived the day before with a JK (American) friend and that ISODORE and party were still in CREAMTOWN (Figueras). The same day I went up to CREAMTOWN (Figueras) by car and picked up VIC and ISODORE at a rendesvous outside the town. They were brought to BUFFTOWN (Barcelona) where day stayed two days and were then taken to MAVISTOWN (Madrid).
4. The remaining four had their passage by goods waggon 'booked' for BUFFTOWN (Barcelona) on the night of 28th November: unfortunately one of VIC's friends had injured his leg and delayed the party in their 4 km walk to the station. When they arrived there the train had gone. This involved further a delay of three days and they finally came down in the early hours of Dember 1st and were put up in EDITH's safehouse for two days. Then the BT (American) pilots were handed over to P.O.W. here and VIC's two friends were kept by us in safehouses until now. We have sent one to MAVISTOWN (Madrid) and the doctor should join an F.F. convoy going to NAC (North Africa). I have done this as VIC told me neither of them would be of any use to us at home. I sent the first one clandestinely by car so that he could be legalised in MAVISTOWN (Madrid) and sent on to NAC (North Africa) from there. I did not want to do this here as he speaks the language and knows too many people in this town.
5. On the 6th of December I was asked to interview a MERTONER (Hollander) who, to my surpriced turned out to be APOLLO, alias AVERARD. He told me that VIOLET was comming down in the afternoon, which she did. As a result of my interrogation of these two bodies I found that they joined the Vic Line at BLACKTOWN (Lyon), VIOLET from MUSWELL (???) where the YPC GENTIANTOWN (Geneva) gave het a Vic contact. APOLLO came from REDTOWN (Paris). ARNAUD and friend whom you were also expecting apparently did not make contact.
6. The line worked perfectly across the frontier but it appears that they were in the hands of an alternative team of guides, for instead of changing guides on the frontier they were taken by the same guides all the way to a farmhouse, apparently east of CREAMTOWN (Figueras), which I do not think is the normal Vic one. From there they were taken to another farmhouse near TORDERA (???) which belongs to my DC collegue here: from there they were brought down by train. They started from BLACKTOWN (Lyon) on 27th November, reached NEASDEN (Spain) on December 1st and arrived in BUFFTOWN (Barcelona) on the 6th having rested several days between the two farmhouses.
7. Three RAF were also in this party, their names being Booth, Hannan and Bawden, who were handed over to GEORGES (Levin) by JULES (MI-9 representative in BLACKTOWN (Lyon)). JULES apparently has many RAF on his hands but no means of getting them out.
8. VIOLET tells me that the food was inadequate on this trip as they spent four days and five nights walking whereas normally it does not take more than two days on foot. Normally the guides carry wine and food for the whole party. On this occasion they were nine, including guides (Spanish and 2 Neardenels) and they carried three sets of iron rations between five people. These iron rations, sent from LM (London) and forwarded by us, are apparently too dry and thirst-making, but would be better if wine were carried. We can easily supply wine botas from here, also sadines, which I propose to do.
9. I have also been told that the alpargatas sent from LM (London) for use on this line are not necessary as plenty can be obtained in PICCADILLY (France) and in any case those we have marked with PORTMAN (British) sizes.
10. I noticed that one of the BT (American) pilots in ISODORE's party referred to Major GERSON and the I.S.
Hier volgt een transcriptie van een geheim document van 12 februari 1944 betreffende een zekere Van Vliet, die gebruik gemaakt heeft van de Vic-Line en waarvan men vermoedt dat het een Duitse infiltrant is. Het is de vraag of de werkelijke 'Van Vliet', de alias van George Ridderhof, gebruik gemaakt heeft van de lijn, of dat het hier een ander betreft die gebruik maakt van de naam Van Vliet. Verder worden GOLF en BROADBEAN genoemd, Willem van der Wilden en Gerrit van Os. Beide zijn direct na hun landing in de buurt van Loenen op de Veluwe gearresteerd. Ook zij maakten deel uit van het Englandspiel.
Telehone Nos Box No. 500
REGENT 6050 PARLIAMENT STREET B.C.
WHITEHALL 6789 LONDON S.W. 1.
L. 397/Holland/1 (B.I.B.) GPW 12th February, 1944
As you probably know, John Senter approved recently my suggestion that we should get someone from this office to make enquiries at the Orchard Club with respect to the story told to Wells in Scotland by the American officer Lieut. John Kennard HURST. Before putting this enquiry in train I had certain look-ups at the L.R.C. and I find that Lieut. HURST was mentioned recently by a Belgian who met him at Lyons while both of them were on their way out of France. The Belgian has of course nothing to say to the detriment of HURST and indeed nothing relevant to HURST's account. They met during the portion of HURST's journey which was undertaken by your agent VIC.
The L.R.C. Information Index has raised a query which I remember was dealt with when Cyril Miller interviewed VIC at Bayswater in December. The query is as regards the possible danger that VAN VLIET probably controlled tuyau might overlap the sdmirable arrangements made by VIC. The L.R.C. has asked me if I can tell them where the point of contact between these two organisations is, and how the questions in December and he explained that the change over takes place in Paris, that there is no question of any mutual address, or any knowledge by VAN VLIET's organisation of the working of VIC's. VIC said, I think, that he took bodies over by means of cut-outs in public places such as restaurants, streets, parks, etc.
There is always I suppose some danger that in spite of the arrangements made by VIC, which are no doubt admirable, the VAN VLIET channel might succeed in penetrating the VIC channel. VIC himself was, I think, made aware of this possibly while he was in England and as his security system is so very well arranged he will no doubt have taken appropriate steps. You may however think it worth while looking into the matter again now that we have so much evidence to the effect that the VAN VLIET escape channel is German-controlled. If anyone does undertake this review I should be very grateful for any comments which might be passed on to the L.R.C. perhaps you would also kindly confirm the fact, which I have already told the Information Index, that so far as we know no agent or address is common to both organisations
Major G.P. Wethered
'Dick' is waarschijnlijk Major R.H. Warden van SOE.
VERDER NAAR DEEL II.