Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Wartime Treachery of Harold Cole

1. Lille, capital of the French northern region
[Where Cole betrayed many who had befriended him]
2. A disguised Harold Cole (alias 'Paul')
["The treacherous double agent"]
(Cumbria County Archives) 
3. A second disguise of Harold Cole ('Paul')
("... a big talker and con man")
(Cumbria County Archives) 
4. François Duprez, a 'Pat' Line French Resistant
[One of the French patriots betrayed by Harold Cole]
(Musée de la Résistance de Bondues, France).

For additional information click on 'Comments' below.


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

Who was Harold Cole?

The treacherous double agent Harold Cole was a petty criminal and fraudster even before the war. During the war he became one of the most notorious traitors of the Allied cause. His denunciations led to the arrest, imprisonment and death of many French patriots and Allied undercover agents.

Before WW2 Harold Cole (1906 - 1946) had served time in a British prison for larceny (i.e. theft) and trafficking in stolen goods. Early in 1939, Harold Cole enlisted to the British Army (No. 1877989RE). Upon the outbreak of war in September 1939 Cole volunteered to serve overseas He served with the Royal Engineers attached to the 4th Infantry Division, which went to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.).

Having been promoted to Sergeant, Harold Cole took charge of the Sergeant's Mess Fund. In the spring of 1940 - just prior to the German invasion - Sergeant Harold Cole absconded with the fund and settled in the Lille area in northern France (Photograph No 1 above). Airey Neave, the first British prisoner to make a successful escape from Colditz subsequently worked with another British Army officer, Jimmy Langley - also an escapee - in M.I.9's 'Room 900' London office for much of the war. In his book about M.I.9, Airey Neave states that when Jimmy Langley first spoke to him of Harold Cole Langley said Cole was "... a big talker and con man".
[Airey Neave, (1969), "Saturday at M.I.9", p. 83].

According to Harold Cole's personal statement to the British Secret Service after his arrest in 1945, he declares he was born on 24 January 1906 at St Thomas' Hospital, London. His parents were Albert Thomas Cole, who was killed in WW1, and Alice Annie Cole (nee Godfrey). Shortly after her husband's death, Mrs Alice Cole remarried - a man by the name of Robert Mason.

Thursday, 01 August, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Betrayal of those who helped him

Evidently very persuasive and especially attractive to women, Harold Cole managed to persuade many patriots in the Lille area he was a British officer and secret agent. Cole was able to take advantage of their desire to help the Allied cause when the Germans invaded and occupied France in the summer of 1940. For example, Cole was assisted in changing his appearance and identity on a regular basis, with the help of hairdressers, opticians, Town Hall employees, etc. Cole became known to the Resistance members in the Lille area as 'Paul' or sometimes as 'Sergeant Cools'.

Two of the disguises used by Cole while living in the Lille area can be seen above (Photographs No 2 and No 3). These are two of a number of photographs of Cole from the personal collection of Sister Olga Baudot de Rouville, a lieutenant with the 'Pat' escape and evasion line in northern France. Sister Baudot de Rouville was one of those who never trusted Cole. In her personal memoirs she records how she always had doubts about Cole and remained guarded in her dealings with him.

Cole became one the first members of an evasion network called 'The True France' (in French, 'La Vraie France'), and after travelling to the Unoccupied Zone of Southern France attached himself to the Garrow / Pat Escape and Evasion network. From the earliest days of his involvement with the escape networks there were those who were suspicious of Harold Cole, especially Lt. Cmndr. Pat O'Leary (in reality a Belgian doctor, Dr Albert-Marie Guerisse) who eventually succeeded Captain Ian Garrow as Head of the escape line.

From the autumn of 1941 Harold Cole betrayed many of the members of the escape line to the Gestapo. In the following weeks Harold Cole's treachery led to the arrest of about 65 members of the escape network. Among those he denounced were Ian Garrow, Head of the escape network and François Duprez, an employee at the Town Hall of La Madeleine near Lille. A photograph of M. Duprez can be seen above (Photograph No 4 above). François Duprez died during his imprisonment at Sonnenberg, Germany in April 1944.

Friday, 02 August, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The first meeting of Harold Cole and François Duprez

The betrayal of François Duprez was especially treacherous when one considers that M. Duprez was one of the first to help Cole after the German Occupation of France. Even at this stage in the war, Cole claimed to have at least one French 'mistress', a Madame Madeleine Deram.

This is how Cole describes he first met with François Duprez (whose surname Cole spells as 'Duprey' in his written statement), one of the men he would go on to betray:

"... as I had no papers Mme Deram became afraid. She heard, however, that certain town halls were issuing identity cards to British soldiers in hiding. So, together we went to Lille where she introduced me to a certain Mme. David, the secretary to the town hall of La Madeleine, a suburb of Lille.

However, Mme. David was also also frightened. But she introduced me to a certain M. François Duprez living at 1, rue de la Gare, La Madeleine, who was working for the German requisitioning authorities in the town hall. He gave me an identity card in the name of Paul Delobel and also allowed me to live in a house he requisitioned at No. 14, rue de la Gare.

I then returned to Loison (i.e. Loison-sous-Lens) with Mme. Madeleine Deram where we collected some of their luggage and her boy aged 13 and we all returned to the house in La Madeleine. Duprez made it a condition that the house should be registered in her name."
Statement given to Major Peter Hope, S.H.A.E.F. & Police Inspector Feinte,
Given at Paris, France
Date: between 16 - 21 June 1945.
[UK National Archives Ref. KV 2/416].

Friday, 02 August, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

A man who was attractive to women

Airey Neave explains in his book about M.I.9 how Jimmy Langley showed him a photograph of Cole in one of his disguises. From the following description the photograph could be the same as Photograph No 2 (above). This is what Jimmy Langley told Airey Neave about Cole:

' "O'Leary never liked him, but he brought results. Have a look at this photograph. I thought you should see it."

It was a photograph of a man with light hair brushed across his forehead. There was a faint smile on his face, and his close-set eyes gave him a cunning expression. The note attached to it described his hair as red.

"He is very attractive to women," said Langley, "with mistresses all over France. He also loves money and this may be the clue to his actions. To the French he describes himself as a Captain."

The photograph was entitled:

"Cole, Harold, alias Paul, born London June 24 1906. See correspondence with Special Branch." '

[Neave (1969), p. 83].

A secret agent's opinion of 'Paul' (Harold Cole)

Sister Olga Baudot de Rouville, alias 'Thérèse Martin', was a Lieutenant for the Garrow / Pat O'Leary escape network in the Lille and the northern region from the earliest days of the French Resistance. She had a lot of dealings with Cole. Like Lt. Cmndr. Pat O'Leary, Thérèse always distrusted Cole. Sister Baudot de Rouville had been a Red Cross nurse at the beginning of the war. She had also been a Red Cross nurse in the First World War.

In her personal account of her wartime activities, this is what Lieutenant Olga Baudot de Rouville wrote about 'Paul' (Harold Cole):

" ... an Englishman came back from Marseille whom we had previously sent there, Sergeant 'Cools' (Harold Cole) going by the name of Paul. He had come to liaise with the South. I had a meeting with him and he gave me a very bad impression. I am three-quarters British and I know the English. The overpowering boastfulness of Paul was a very bad "other side of the Channel" tone, likewise his lack of tact.

He claimed to that he had been part of Scotland Yard and some time later made out he was an officer. He insisted that I meet the person who accompanied him, who at that moment was in another room, on the basis that she was sheltering him and wanted to be in the know. I replied that, as usual, on principle I would only have contact with one person and never with people who did not do any "work". As this woman did not "work" I refused to see her and I made off like a rabbit! I suspected the woman was his girlfriend and I was not mistaken.

I always distrusted Paul and acted accordingly. I knew where to meet him but not accompany him. I made myself older and pretended to speak poor French. He thought I was Irish. I helped him as much as I could, but carefully. I provided him with the men but never gave him their addresses. I gave him lots of clothes, often top quality and almost new, linen, woollens, sometimes money, provisions, etc., petrol for the car he had been given, information and plans.

I made myself out to be a sort of lynchpin to avoid the contacts I doubted. I did not want to tell anyone that I did not trust Paul because I was ashamed to speak out against an Englishman and I did not want to put anyone at risk. What I gave to Paul was either directly hand to hand or at the house of his 'hostess', or via Roland or Mme. Jean (Mme. Jeanine Voglimacci) the hairdresser or via Duprez. .... "

Friday, 02 August, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Sister Baudot de Rouville continued with her assessment of Cole:

"I provided him (Cole) with a transmitter free of charge, which he claimed to Garrow or Pat that he had paid 30,000 Francs for it. However, it had cost me 1,450 Francs which I was recompensed for only a year later in 1942 when Pat (O'Leary) gave me the money to cover our expenses.

Paul tried to take advantage of everyone and began to borrow money. He tried to do this through me. I could have found a bank where some friends had connections but it was necessary to give security guarantees and the signature of Paul meant nothing to them since my friends saw that I did not trust him.

He found a way of having a rapport with Dumez and some people from Fives, whose names escape me. Very quickly, he had borrowed money from them and took petrol without paying for it. So well did he do this that people panicked and came to tell me that he was a crook and a Gestapo agent. I had not influenced anyone in arriving at this opinion as I did not speak to anyone about Paul.

I was concerned about many things. Firstly, because the departures were dragging on and then Paul had a strange attitude. He spoke ill of everyone behind their backs. He tried to get me to go it alone with him; I did not know what he wanted. He wanted to be able to find me at a particular fixed address (which I never wanted to do). I believe I had good cause for concern.

Furthermore, he seemed to want to move the centre of the organisation and without explanation. He seemed to prefer to remove people and find others to replace them, who had had no prior contact with London and doing it so that he would have his own way. By this method, there would have been no control. I guessed this but did not say anything to anyone to avoid awkward explanations if I was wrong.

We talked about Paul's expenses, often bemused. He had women everywhere and spent many a night on the tiles, but he accused others of the same thing. He spoke despicably about Roland. However, he was doing all the work, not Paul. Roland had his faults and lacked discipline. But, who would have been under the leadership of a Paul?"

Friday, 02 August, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Harold Cole's arrest in Germany

Between 1941 and the end of the German Occupation of France in 1944 Harold Cole betrayed many French Resistance workers. Following the Liberation of Paris on 25 August 1944 Airey Neave set up an I.S.9 office in the city at the Hotel Westminster. Among the first things he looked into was tracking down Harold Cole. He was informed that Cole had departed Paris dressed as a German Army officer on 17 August.

Nothing more was heard of Cole until the spring of 1945 when he walked into an American Army HQ in southern Germany claiming to be a 'Captain Mason of the British Secret Service'. He was accompanied by a Major Kieffer (SS Sturmbannführer) - previously a German intelligence officer in Paris. Cole apparently claimed that Kieffer "... had been very useful" and asked for safe conduct. Cole had evidently lost none of his convincing and persuasive powers.

The Americans provided him with the uniform of a captain and a job in the American Counter Intelligence Corps. Cole, alias Captain Mason, was now able to denounce his Gestapo contacts to the Americans.

Cole's new identity was eventually traced by Donald Darling, previously M.I.9's main agent in Gibraltar who had re-located to the M.I.9 office in Paris. One of Cole's former mistresses then living in Paris went to see Donald Darling at his Paris office to persuade him that those who thought ill of Cole had been wrong all the time. She took with her a postcard from Cole stating he was safe and well and working for the American Intelligence Service.

Darling managed to obtain Cole's address from the reverse of the postcard and sent orders for his arrest. Cole was apprehended and taken to Paris and held in prison where he was interviewed. It was during this period that Cole signed the document giving his version of his wartime career that is now accessible in the National Archives at Kew.

Friday, 02 August, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The end of an inglorious wartime career

One of the things that Harold Cole seemed to be good at was deception. Once again he managed to escape captivity. Cole was like a cat with nine lives. Incredibly, he persuaded the American guards at the prison that he be allowed to write his memoirs in the guardroom. Lifting the jacket of an American sergeant left in the room he was able to get out of prison.

For several weeks Cole lived above a bar in the Rue de Grenelle in Paris. The persuasive womaniser Cole told the widowed proprietress that he was a 'Sergeant Carpenter' requiring a billet while he was awaiting demobilisation. However, this time 'Cole the cat' was living the last of his nine lives.

According to Airey Neave's account of the affair, the French police were searching addresses in Paris looking for deserters. Having been informed that there was a deserter living at Billy's Bar, rue de Grenelle, two French gendarmes knocked on the door, apparently not knowing it was Harold Cole who was living there. Cole answered the door brandishing a pistol.

In the ensuing exchange of gunfire one of the gendarmes was wounded and Cole was shot dead. Yet there was a question that remained to be answered. Was this really Harold Cole who had been killed?

It was just at this time that Lt. Cmndr. Pat O'Leary (Dr Albert Guerisse) was visiting Scotland to see the parents of Captain Ian Garrow, his predecessor as the Head of the escape line. If anyone would be able to identify the body as Cole it would be Pat O'Leary, whose close associates had been despicably betrayed by Cole. So Pat O'Leary was called from Scotland to confirm it was indeed Cole who had finally met his end in a shoot-out in Paris.

Years later, in 1964, Dr Albert Guerisse was the subject of two programmes of the British TV programme 'This is Your Life'. Towards the end of one of the shows Ian Garrow was brought on as a 'surprise guest'. It is said that Dr Guerisse greeted his old friend Ian Garrow by saying he had thought he was dead! Ian Garrow and Albert Guerisse were two members of the escape and evasion network who managed to survive the war, despite the treachery of Harold Cole. On the night of their reunion in 1964 there were many 'absent friends'. Most of them had met their end at the hands of the treacherous Harold Cole.

Friday, 02 August, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...


In concluding this assessment of the treacherous Harold Cole is there anything good to say about him? For example, was it because he was physically and mentally tortured that he betrayed other members of the escape and evasion network? Did he actually do anything positive for the Allied cause?

It is true to say he did bring some results and assisted with a number of escapes. It was largely because of this that those who were already suspicious of Cole overlooked any suspicions they, or others, may have had about him. Yet, even while doing this work Cole was using money given to him to help the Resistance activities for his own benefit and pleasures.

For example, several large sums of money that Captain Garrow gave Cole for François Duprez was found to have been used by Cole on women. In effect, Cole was 'living the life of Riley' with funds that he had been entrusted with for a specific and noble purpose.

In the statement about his wartime activities given in June 1945 to the interrogating officers from S.H.A.E.F. and the French Police, Cole attempts to justify his actions. Yet, even when making this, there is no remorse for having betrayed those who had trusted him. Many of these people were arrested, tortured and imprisoned. Some even lost their lives as a result of Cole's betrayal. At the end of this statement Cole says:

"I make this statement fully realising its implications and I hope that it will demonstrate my true sentiments which have always been for England."

Statement given to Major Peter Hope, S.H.A.E.F. & Police Inspector Feinte,
Given at Paris, France
Date: between 16 - 21 June 1945.
[UK National Archives Ref. KV 2/416].
(page 21).

Airey Neave described Harold Cole as "... among the most selfish and callous traitors who ever served the enemy in time of war." [Neave (1969), p.311]. He was evidently attractive to the many women he treated with the money he obtained through his deception. Clearly, Cole took advantage of the situation in Occupied France to get his hands on money from the Allies, the Gestapo and even from individual members of the Resistance.

According to Airey Neave, Cole had "... a complete absence of any moral or patriotic feeling..." All the evidence indicates that Cole had an unstable temperament, was a thief, a liar and a womaniser. Ultimately, he betrayed a large number of people because it suited his purposes.

Friday, 02 August, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...


(1) Musée de la Résistance (Resistance Museum)
16 Place de l'Abbé Bonpain
59910 BONDUES,

This is a link to the museum's website (English language home page):
Musée de la Résistance (Resistance Museum)

(2) Cumbria County Archives & Local Studies Centre,
Whitehaven Records Office,
Scotch Street,
CA28 7NL

This is a link to the Whitehaven Archive and Local Studies Centre:
Whitehaven Archive and Local Studies Centre

This is a link to the online catalogue of the personal memoirs, photographs and other documents of Sister Olga Baudot de Rouville (YDX 207):
Olga Baudot de Rouville collection

(3) The National Archives,
[File Ref: KV 2/416, (Harold Cole statement)]

Further reading

Neave, Airey (1969),
"Saturday at M.I.9, The Classic Account of the WW2 Allied Escape Organisation",
(Reprinted 2010),
Pen & Sword Military, Barnsley, UK
Paperback, 328 pages

ISBN: 9781848843110

Friday, 02 August, 2013  

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