Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sister Olga Baudot de Rouville (1891 – 1979)

1. Cumbria County Council bookmarks:
[Left]: Sister Olga Baudot de Rouville (1891 – 1979)
A Red Cross nurse and M.I.9 agent
[Right]: Saint Thérèse of Lisieux prayer card
2. Cumbria County Council poster:
Sister Olga Baudot de Rouville and related documents
Part of an Archives exhibition (Dec. 2015 / Jan. 2016)
3. Two M.I. 9 ‘PAT’ line agents of WW2:
[Left]: "Françoise" with General De Gaulle
"Françoise" became head of the escape and evasion line
(Her true name was Marie-Louise Dissard)
[Right]: Olga Baudot de Rouville / ‘‘Thérèse Martin’’
A photograph used for a false I.D. card 
4. False I.D. card for “Suzanne Marie Gauthier”:
One of several false I.D. cards Olga used in the war
She was using this identity in the middle of 1944 
5. Haute- Savoie Health Service order:   
Issued to “Suzanne Gauthier” (18/09/1944)
Issued by the C.F.L.N. (F.F.I)
(French Committee of National Liberation)
(Issued shortly after the Liberation)
6. Travel Pass of “Suzanne Gauthier”:   
Authorising a journey to Paris after the Liberation
Issued by the Liberation Committee (19/09/1944) 
Cumbria County Libraries and Archives Service
December 2015 – January 2016
“A Most Remarkable Woman”
An exhibition has been arranged at the Whitehaven Archives and Local Studies Centre about the life and the wartime experiences of Maud Olga Andrée Baudot de Rouville (1891 – 1979). It is based on a collection of her personal documents, photographs and possessions held by the Cumbria County Libraries and Archives Service. 

For additional information click in ‘Comments’ below.


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

“A Most Remarkable Woman” is one description that has been used about Sister Olga Baudot de Rouville (1891 – 1979), a Red Cross nurse in German Occupied France during both World Wars and was a World War Two M.I.9 agent. It is also the title of an exhibition on her life and wartime experiences by Cumbria County Council at the Whitehaven Archives Office, open to the public during December 2015 and January 2016.

At the end of WW2, Sister Olga Baudot de Rouville was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Bronze Star by the French Government and the King’s Medal for Courage in the Cause of Freedom by the British Government. Her main ‘nom de guerre’ in WW2 was ‘Thérèse Martin’ taken from the true name of the 19th Century French Carmelite nun St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

To coincide with the exhibition Cumbria County Council has produced commemorative bookmarks with the image of Olga Baudot de Rouville and the saint she believed protected her throughout the war [Photograph No. 1]. The exhibition includes a large variety of documents and photographs, including one of Olga dressed in the WW2 uniform of a Red Cross nurse [Photograph No. 2].

Working as an agent for M.I.9 during WW2, ‘Thérèse’ was a key member of the ‘PAT’ escape and evasion network, helping many hundreds of civilians and Allied soldiers and airmen between 1940 and 1944. Over the course of the war this network was headed by three different people, namely:

(1) Lieutenant Ian Garrow, the ‘Tartan Pimpernel’, (October 1940 – October 1941);

(2) Lieutenant-Commander Pat O’Leary, real name Dr. Albert Guérisse, the ‘Belgian Pimpernel’, (October 1941 – March 1943);

(3) Marie-Louise Dissard, alias ‘Françoise’, (March 1943 – February 1944).

The network is sometimes referred to the ‘Françoise line’ during the time that ‘‘Françoise’ was in charge. Photograph No. 3 (left) shows ‘Françoise’ with the WW2 Free French leader General Charles de Gaulle after the war. Photograph No. 3 (right) is a photograph of Olga Baudot de Rouville / ‘Thérèse Martin’. This is an example of the photographs that French Resistance members required for obtaining false identity papers.

Olga had several false identities throughout the war, including one as ‘Suzanne Marie Gauthier’ in 1944 [Photograph No. 4]. Most of Olga’s false identity papers were destroyed during the course of the war to prevent leaving incriminating evidence once she had changed identity. As Olga was travelling as ‘Suzanne Gauthier’ in September 1944, which was after the liberation, there was no need to destroy this false I.D. card and so it has survived.

There is additional documentary evidence in the collection held by the Cumbria County Archives that ‘Suzanne Gauthier’ was the identity used by Olga Baudot de Rouville towards of the German Occupation. On 18 September 1944, ‘Suzanne Gauthier’ was issued with an order by the Health Service of the Liberation Committee of the Haute-Savoie Department at Annemasse [Photograph No. 5]. The following day, 19 September 1944, ‘Suzanne’ was issued with a travel pass by the Departmental Committee of National Liberation authorising her travel to her home town of Paris [Photograph No. 6]. It was at Paris that ‘Suzanne’ could get the necessary papers to reclaim her true identity and once more become Olga Baudot de Rouville.

Sunday, 29 November, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Why are Olga’s personal effects in the Cumbria County Archives?

Ironically, for Olga Baudot de Rouville it was after reclaiming her true identity at the end of the war that she found it difficult to travel and live where she pleased. Despite working for the Allied cause during the war, in the immediate post-war period Olga found it difficult to obtain the freedom to travel to Britain and Ireland other than as a short term visitor. Government ‘red tape’, it would seem, stood in the way even of one the bravest wartime heroines.

There were, however, those who wished to help. Among these was British Army doctor who had worked alongside Olga in a hospital for wounded British Prisoners of War in 1940. The name of this doctor was Dr. John Heslop, M.C. After the war Dr Helsop and his family lived at a farm near Cockermouth, Cumberland (now Cumbria). Dr Heslop contacted the then Member of Parliament for Workington, Mr Fred Peart, M.P. so that Olga was able to come to Britain and lived with the Heslop family for a time. Eventually, she was able to travel to Ireland to try and locate her relatives and also to find out about a family legacy.

On leaving for Ireland, she left behind almost all the personal belongings and never returned to Cockermouth. In fact, the Heslop family never heard from Olga again! In the late 1980s, assuming that by this time Sister Baudot de Rouville must have passed away, the Heslop family deposited many of her belongings, including photographs, letters, certificates and a personal testimony of the war years, to the Whitehaven Office of the Cumbria County Archives. That is the explanation of why Olga’s personal documents, photographs and personal effects are held by the Cumbria County Archives. It is a collection that includes documents in both English and French.

Following extensive research of the contents in the collection, for the first time Cumbria County Council tells the life story and wartime experiences of Sister Olga Baudot de Rouville. As the title of the exhibition indicates, this is the story of a most remarkable woman.

Sunday, 29 November, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Who was this “… most remarkable woman”?

The full name of this “… most remarkable woman …” was Maud Olga Andrée Baudot de Rouville. She was born on 14 December 1891 at the Parisian home of her parents on the Rue de la Pépinière in the prestigious 8th arrondissement. The major Parisian landmarks of the Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe, the Place de la Concorde as well as the Élysée Palace, official residence of the French President, are all located in the 8th arrondissement.

Olga’s father was Edouard Ludovic Baudot de Rouville, born in Paris in 1843 and a lawyer by profession. Her mother was Susan Baudot de Rouville (née Walters), an Irishwoman born in Newport, Co. Tipperary. Edouard and Susan married at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, Australia in July 1885. They had at least one other child of the marriage: Ludovic Edouard Walter, born just outside Paris in March 1887.

At least some of Olga’s formal education was in the French-speaking part of Belgium. At the age of 18 she received a first diploma to become a primary school teacher from the Belgian Education Ministry in 1910 (given at Tournai on 29 July 1910 and confirmed at Brussels on 30 July 1910). She was awarded a second diploma for successfully passing the examinations at a teacher training institute for young ladies at Champion (Namur) on 29 September 1910.

The following year, on 21 August 1911, Olga received a distinction when awarded the Preparatory Diploma from the Walloon Middle College at Champion (Namur). Of particular interest is the following commendation by the examination board:

“…the recipient has passed an examination on the English language in which she was particularly distinguished.”

With an Irish mother, Olga was fluent in English but with a marked Irish accent. Because of this, during the Second World War many people who only spoke to her in English actually thought she was Irish.

Sunday, 29 November, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

A Red Cross nurse in two World Wars

Olga Baudot de Rouville served as a nurse at Lille during both the 1914 – 1918 and 1939 – 1945 wars. In the collection of Cumbria County Archives are Red Cross certificates from both wars. In both wars she was living in German occupied France. There are photographs in the Cumbria County Archives collection of Olga as a Red Cross nurse in both World Wars. Unfortunately, there are few other references about Olga’s activities and life during the First World War.

One of the main espionage and escape line networks from the early days of the First World War was the “Alice” network, headed by a multi-lingual French woman based in German-occupied Lille in northern France: Louise de Bettignies (1880 – 1918). Using the ‘nom de guerre’ of ‘Alice Dubois’, Louise de Bettignies was able to smuggle at least a thousand soldiers and airmen, mainly British, out of occupied territory back to their own lines. In addition, for about nine months or so, the “Alice” network was able to pass useful information to British and French commanders about German movements and plans.

The British called Louise de Bettignies the “Queen of Spies”. However, the success of the “Alice” network did not last. Louise de Bettignies was arrested by the Germans in October 1915 and sentenced to death at Brussels on 16 March 1916. Although the sentence was commuted to forced labour for life, Louise de Bettignies was deported to Germany, where she died of pleurisy at Cologne on 27 September 1918.

Was the young nurse Olga Baudot de Rouville part of the “Alice” network at Lille during the First World War? There is no firm evidence to answer this either way in the collection held by the Cumbria County Archives. However, there is one brief reference that she was referred to early in the Second World War as one of “… the heroines of 14 – 18”. Nevertheless, the example of Louise de Bettignies and the “Alice” network would at least have been known to those who lived through the German Occupation of 1914 – 1918 and were now living through a second occupation in 1940.

The First World War did have a major impact on the future life of Olga Baudot de Rouville. Her elder brother Ludovic died in a military hospital at Creil (Oise) on 27 January 1917 at the age of 29. His death was due to illness attributed to his military service. It is also believed that Olga’s fiancé also died while serving in the French Army in the 1914 – 1918 war. Unfortunately, the name of this fiancé is unknown.

Sunday, 29 November, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

A WW2 timeline for Olga Baudot de Rouville / Thérèse Martin

Below is an approximate timeline and brief summary of the wartime activities of Sister Olga Baudot de Rouville / ‘Thérèse Martin’ during the Second World War. The quotations used are translated extracts from the personal testimony of Sister Olga Baudot de Rouville.

September 1939 – May 1940:
The ‘Phoney War’.

Olga becomes Head nurse at a Military hospital in the Pas-de-Calais region but has little to do and the hospital is ‘derequisitioned’. She is about to take up another post in a hospital at Forbach when the Germans invade.

“My conception of duty is strict: it extends to all aspects of life and did not just begin in 1939.”

May – June 1940:
The German invasion and the ‘Exodus’.

The terrible journey along packed roads in front of the advancing Germans almost becomes like the Biblical ‘Road to Damascus’ for Olga.

“It was at this moment, which I shall never forget for the rest of my life, as I was seething with rage when I saw two 5th Columnists (a man and a woman) who began to spout pro-German propaganda! Henceforth, I took the opposing view to that which had silenced my people and had caught me out in the open fields for 14 days. It was also the date I entered into the Resistance. As God is my witness, from that moment on I never left it. Every possible means seemed good to me: by my deeds, words and attitude, etc.”

June – October 1940:
A Red Cross nurse at Lille and early Resistance member.

Olga becomes a Red Cross nurse at Lille and begins working for the French Resistance. She adopts a ‘nom de guerre’ and becomes ‘Thérèse Martin’, after St. Thérèse of Lisieux. The conditions for the seriously wounded P.O.W.s are dreadful with shortages of medical supplies, food and clothing.

“I went searching in the fields, ditches and farms to replace the soiled and torn clothing and effects of the English, some of which I personally washed in a public washing area that had been set up in the rue du Fort. For the most severely wounded it was necessary to feed them with special foods: eggs, butter, chicken, champagne, trout, custard, porridge, juicy meat, choice fruits, fortified wines, what do I know?

And with that bread, despite the menus and potatoes, etc... No one can imagine what this meant to do the haggling, to carry this burden and the expense. A particularly devoted nurse that I had accepted as an assistant was, as I was, a donor suitable for all groups so we offered to give blood. But I should not dwell on the work of those 3 months where I lived only for the wounded who said to me: "You are not the lady with the lamp but the lady with the tea!" And this name stuck with me! They also called me "the Irish sister". It was a time of extreme deprivation where I spent everything I had and ran up a lot of debts.”

Sunday, 29 November, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

October 1940 – June 1942:
A ‘Godmother of Lille’ and building up the ‘PAT’ Escape and Evasion network.

When the wounded P.O.W.s are taken to Germany, ‘Thérèse’ continues to help them by becoming a ‘Godmother’, She recruits other women of Lille to become ‘godmothers’ to the prisoners, sending them food parcels, clothing etc which help keep many alive. ‘Thérèse’ becomes second in command in the North for the ‘PAT’ escape and evasion network. She has to work with Harold Cole (alias ‘Paul’) who would become a double agent and betray many members of the escape and evasion network. ‘Thérèse’ always distrusted Harold Cole.

“At this time 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 sometime 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., for petrol for the car he had been given, information and plans.”

Sunday, 29 November, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

June 1942 – March 1943:
Evasion of the Gestapo and relocation firstly to Paris and then to Marseille.

Eventually, the Gestapo close in on ‘Thérèse’ and strongly suspect she is deeply involved in the Allied escape and evasion network they are trying to close down. ‘Thérèse’ believes that Harold Cole is behind her betrayal to the Gestapo.

“When Paul (Harold Cole) was no longer able to find out anything more, doubtless the Germans decided to probe further for my true identity. They came to my house on the morning of Friday 26 June. By chance, I learned of this at 4:30 a.m. when passing through the vicinity that I was to be summoned to the Commandant's Headquarters at 9:00 a.m. on the following Monday. Immediately, I notified Noutour, took all possible steps for my departure and stopped for nothing. I had planned for this since December. I did not want to worry anyone more than necessary about me and I had been putting the links in the chain for 6 months. This gave me 48 hours to do what I had to and I did not leave Lille for Paris until the last train out on Sunday. I had the good fortune to have an almost empty train, when it was usually chock-a-block, with no checking of documents by either French or Germans and without the usual customs officer checks during the journey.

The following day, on the 7:00 a.m. train to Paris the Jerries, with photographs in hand, thoroughly searched the train to find me. They had kept returning to my house: on Saturday, Sunday and very early on Monday. They searched for me in every town of significance in Occupied France. Three weeks after my flight they were still getting on the trains in groups of 10 or 12 checking old ladies and checking their papers.”

‘Thérèse’ goes firstly to Paris and then to Marseille where she works even more closely with “Pat O’Leary” and several other key members of the ‘PAT’ escape and evasion line such as Henri Fiocca, his wife Nancy (nee Wake) and Dr. George Rodocanachi. In March 1943 Pat O’Leary and many others of the network are betrayed and arrested by the Gestapo.

“Louis Nouveau had been arrested while escorting some pilots. Pat resolved to leave for Switzerland after having arranged a number of frontier crossings at Perpignan. Then, he told me, "I shall come back to Marseille and then make my H.Q. at your place". He told me this would be on the Sunday evening and promised to return from Switzerland the following Saturday, if all went well. Albert stayed over at my house that night. I can see again Pat’s friendly smile and the little gesture with his hand, "See you Tuesday, Albert". He left for Perpignan and then headed off for Toulouse. At Toulouse, at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, he was betrayed by Roger Le Legionnaire and arrested in a bar along with ‘Paul the Tailor’. This was on the 2nd March 1943. On the 4th March at Paris, Mme Leveque was arrested in the absence of her husband and daughter. There was a Scotsman at their house but I do not know what became of him. On the 5th, Albert came to warn me about what had taken place at Toulouse. I asked him if the travel bag that I had given to Pat with all the papers in it was secure. Yes, he has hidden it really well. He left for Paris. I then saw Fabien every day while we were waiting for Albert to return. After several days Fabien did not come to any more meetings and there was no news of Albert.”

Sunday, 29 November, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

March – July 1943:
Helping to keep the escape and evasion network going after the arrest of Pat O’Leary.

‘Thérèse’ and many other members of the network are under suspicion and are closely watched by the Vichy secret police. Nevertheless they try to keep the ‘PAT’ network functioning. It is a difficult time.

“I did not know what to do. I needed to keep the apartment which only Pat and Albert knew the address. If one or the other had managed to escape they would probably have sought refuge at my place. I had no money, not having received anything since Christmas. I continued to buy supplies which I was well stocked up with but I did not want to sell in order to be able to help those among us who were in need. Étienne gave me identity papers in the name of Dufayel, since I was known by this name in the apartment block. I even borrowed 3,000 Francs and left for Annemasse to try and get across to Switzerland and get in touch with our contact. I found a guide who wanted 10,000 Francs but did not seem convinced that he would get the balance on my return. I stayed only one day in Annemasse and spoke to no-one. However, I have since learned that my visit had been reported. I even tried to get a message to Geneva, but this was unsuccessful. Perhaps I could have left for Spain with some of the crew sent by Louis Couhé. But I decided it was unacceptable to leave the work for which I had sacrificed everything since '40.”

Sunday, 29 November, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

July 1943 – February 1944:
Running the Villa Pamplemousse at Toulouse for ‘Françoise’ (Marie-Louise Dissard).

After the arrest of Pat O’Leary, ‘Françoise’ (Marie-Louise Dissard), an elderly but redoubtable spinster living in Toulouse, became the new head of the escape and evasion network. The network is also sometimes referred to as the PAO organisation, such as by ‘Thérèse’ in the following extract from her memoirs.

“Françoise became a strong link with the PAO organisation from mid-December '42 and it was at her house that Pat stayed between leaving his Paris hotel and prior to taking his own apartment. She now began looking for those who had not been arrested or the families of those who had been paying the organisation's expenses to make a small cash advance while waiting for assistance from Geneva. Her proposal was to give 2,000 Francs per person per month to help them. Unfortunately, her way of judging those who agreed the settlement of accounts and the financial assistance required was such that I refused to profit from this. I accepted the sum of 10,000 Francs for the rent from friends who lent me this amount and decided to wait for news of Pat before deciding whether or not to keep my apartment.”

In July 1943, ‘Françoise’ established ‘Thérèse’ at the Villa Pamplemousse (or the ‘Villa Pam’ for short), 27 Chemin Cazal in Toulouse. This became the main safe house in the area for gathering escaping airmen. ‘Thérèse’ was doing all the donkey work and it was under extreme stress for the surviving members of the network. It was not surprising, then, that there was some tension between ‘Françoise’ and ‘Thérèse’ about the network operation.

“I went to Toulouse, taking with me everything that belonged to me or that had been lent to me by friends. By mid-July Françoise and me had settled at the 'Villa Pam'. Paul Uhlmann’s sister (Paula) went across to the Occupied Zone about the same time.

The work began again, with the difference that Françoise "... took all the sport and left me all the drudgery". It was real slavery where I did all the tasks. We had a nephew of General De Gaulle (Michel Cailliau) with us for three weeks. We had contact with the I.S. through London and with the 'Maquis' (Resistance) through Geneva. A miner who worked for me during the time I was in the North and who had made contact with me again in Marseille, brought us two pilots who had come down in the mining area of the Pas-de-Calais. The house was always full of pilots and the routes were doing well. The men used to leave by train. When the surveillance straightened up, they passed over the train twice with the connivance of the railwaymen.”

Sunday, 29 November, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

February – June 1944:
A period on the run from the secret police in southern France.

‘Thérèse’ and ‘Françoise’ eventually have to go on the run themselves after the Germans infiltrate an escape attempt. One of the new couriers has the name and address of ‘Françoise’ in a pocket book!

“Unfortunately, my four poor pilots were captured on a train from Perpignan a few days later. As the result of a clumsy involvement by Françoise, who was accompanying them, she was also caught with them. After this adventure, surveillance on the trains by the Jerries became draconian, especially close to the Pyrenees.

Françoise was panicky and on edge after the Perpignan incident and wanted to shelter more of them. She acknowledged that the workload was too heavy for her. There was one departure where, on the same day, a guide who had been sent from our house was arrested at Perpignan by a false pilot.

We had to return to Georges for the subsequent departures. Françoise told me that the city of Toulouse was going to suffer a siege like the one at Marseille the previous year. She had asked Laurent from the Toulouse Town Hall for a hiding place for herself. She wanted me to stay at the Villa with the papers in my real name. She had never realised that the Gestapo had known of my activities for a long time, since '40, and also had my photos in their hands. I completely refused this. I wanted to get away from Toulouse and start again somewhere else since I knew we had spent time in Marseille and it was impossible to avoid the visits that were taking part in my neighbourhood. Then, she thought of calling the Carpentiers and to my indignant question, she replied playfully:

"To serve as guinea pigs".

We left the house together in February and I left everything I had there. She went to Annemasse and I went to Lyon to pick up 180,000 Francs that I gave her on the train to return with. The Savoy region had been closed off. I went down to Marseille where I thought to wait 3 or 4 weeks while the situation in Toulouse was clarified. Francoise had assured me she did not know where to find me accommodation in the region around Toulouse, Cahors, etc., or even with the Maquis. I knew that I should go to Marseille. But what to do? I could not stay on the river bank. I was without news from (Louis) Couhé and without money. Renée Chaber opened her door for me and I stayed at her house. She was very dear.’’

Sunday, 29 November, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

June – September 1944:
A Nurse for the ‘Maquis’ in the Vercors mountain region.

While trying to reach Geneva in neutral Switzerland ‘Thérèse’ the long train journey takes her into the Vercors region – at just the time there is an armed uprising by the Maquis against the German occupiers. ‘Thérèse’ introduces herself as a ‘British agent’ and volunteers her services as a nurse tending the wounded.

The Germans massacred many wounded Maquis fighters, as well as their nurses and doctors. ‘Thérèse’ managed to escape and hid in the mountains until the Allies liberated this part of southern France.

“Subsequently, I arrived in the Vercors where I remained until the 'Deliverance'.

I was hidden at Espenel (Drôme) where the Mayor, M. (Edouard) Girouin to whom I introduced myself as a British agent, received me warmly and gave me his assistance up to the end.

Espenel was burned by the Germans during the time the Vercors was a centre for the Resistance. I requested permission from Major Marteau to go up to the hospital where I could be of service as a nurse. This was granted to me when the roads were cut due to the German advance. It was this work stint that saved me, no doubt. The hospital evacuated to a cave. The wounded, the nurses, the doctors were massacred.

I saved myself by fleeing into the mountains. I stayed up there until after the Landings in the Midi (South coast), when the Americans had crossed the Col de Cabré and the one at Grimone.”

Sunday, 29 November, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

September 1944 – May 1945 (V.E. Day):
A return to Lille via Grenoble and Paris.

After the Allied invasion in the south of France in August 1944, the southern part of France is liberated. For surviving members of the Resistance, such as ‘Thérèse’, it is the time of Deliverance. ‘Thérèse’ is living under the false identity of Suzanne Gauthier at this time – the name is a French translation of her mother’s maiden name, Susan Walters.

It was still a difficult time for ‘Thérèse’ but she eventually made it back to Lille via Dijon and Paris. Once more, she reclaims her true identity: Olga Baudot de Rouville. However, things were not the same at Lille as when she had left there in June 1942 and the Germans had plundered most of her possessions.

“Particularly at Dijon, where I spent 3 nights on the streets, I was in total desperation because of the situation.

In spite of everything, I reached Paris after many ups and downs. I tried in vain to make it to Lille. (I tried going with) American officers in a place on a truck with 75 litres of petrol so as not to rely on a civilian car. I made no secret of why I wanted to go there but it pains me to discuss it. But these gentlemen ruled over my opportunity to thank them.

I went back to Lille which I had been looking forward to. I found that the Jerries had totally plundered everything I owned. But at least I am known in Lille and I hoped to find a situation there which afforded me a living there.”

Thus, in 1945 Olga Baudot de Rouville found herself back at Lille, where her wartime adventures began in September 1939. However, her travels, her trials and tribulations had not quite finished. Within a couple of years, she would travel firstly to Britain and then to her mother’s home country of Ireland. However, the passage was not to be without some difficulty due to red tape.

Sunday, 29 November, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The end of the war

After an arduous journey back to Lille Olga’s excitement is tempered when she learns that the Germans have plundered almost everything she owned. How miserable must she have felt after all the years of struggle and deprivation? Olga is also living with friends at Lille, such Martine Bernard and her parents. The Bernards were fellow members of the Resistance from the early days of the German Occupation. Martine Bernard and her father had been betrayed by Harold Cole and been imprisoned. Olga also lived at an address at nearby Tourcoing for a time, which one assumes was a rented apartment.

There are food shortages and Olga is being sent food parcels from contacts in Britain and the United States. It was also a time of reconstruction in France with many associated difficulties. What was Olga’s purpose in life now that the war was over? It is known she recommences writing to some of the soldiers and airmen she first met while working at the P.O.W. hospital at Lille, including two of the doctors, Major Kimbell and Captain John Heslop.

Olga also writes in English to an address she has for the first P.O.W she helped to make a successful escape in 1940: Sergeant (later Pilot Officer) James William Bristowe Phillips, D.F.M., known as “Ginger” Phillips. This is an extract from the letter to “Ginger” Phillips, written in her apartment at Tourcoing on 23 August 1945:

“I shall be very happy to hear from you and hope it will be very soon. Wishing you the best of luck. I send you the kindest regards from an old friend.

Thérèse Martin
This is my “war” name if you remember, the name of the Little Sister from Lisieux of whom I gave you a relic as a keepsake. Did you keep it?

And this is my real name:
Miss Baudot de Rouville.”

Olga also writes to the families of at least two of the wounded British soldiers who had died while being cared for in the hospital at Lille in 1940.

The first was Mrs Letitia Fleming, widow of Captain Michael V.P. Fleming, 4th Bn. Ox. and Bucks. L.I., who died on 1 October 1940. Olga was tending the grave of Captain Fleming in the cemetery at Lille and sent a photograph of the grave to Mrs Fleming and her children. In return, she asked for a photograph of Captain Fleming. Captain Michael Fleming was the son of Major and Mrs Valentine Fleming, M.P. DSO. He was also the brother of the writers Peter Fleming and Ian Fleming.

The second family Olga contacted was the family of Private Geoffrey Gardiner, R.A.M.C., who died at Lille on 1 August 1940. In fact, Olga goes on to stay at the home of Geoffrey’s parents, Fred and Ruth Gardiner, at Earley near Reading, Berkshire. The Gardiner family cannot wait to pamper Olga. While staying with the Gardiners, Olga is involved with daily life such as helping in the garden and looking after the family’s goats and hens.

Sunday, 29 November, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Problems with ‘officialdom’ in Britain and Ireland

After being arrested by the Germans in March 1943, “Pat O’Leary” (Dr Albert Guérisse) eventually ended up in Dachau concentration camp. He survived the war and at the beginning of 1946 was still working for the British secret service and living in London as Pat O’Leary. Olga writes to him asking his help to get a visa so she too can visit Britain, but it does not prove to be easy. At this time there is a rush of Europeans, especially the French, wanting to come to Britain and almost all of them claim to have been in the Resistance during the war! On 19 February 1946, Pat writes to Olga, who he always refers to as “Thérèse”, to say he is doing everything he can to get her a visa. On 27 March 1946, Pat writes to Olga to say the visa is arranged and so she eventually makes it to Britain.

As previously referred to, while in Britain Olga is able to stay with Dr Kimbell, one of the doctors she worked with at Lille, the Gardiner family and then with the family of Dr. John Heslop at High Dyke farm near Cockermouth, Cumberland. However, as a French citizen, Olga is not allowed to stay in Britain permanently. Because of this, nor can she find a job and support herself. The authorities insist she leaves the country when her visa runs out in mid-July 1946. She is allowed a one-month extension but then has to leave and goes back to Lille to stay with Martine Bernard and her parents.

Olga’s British friends are furious at the way she is being treated by “officialdom”. On 29 July 1946 Fred Gardiner writes a letter to Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip Joubert (who was of partial French descent) via 10 Downing Street. The tone of Fred Gardiner’s letter can be summed up by the following question he asks the Air Chief Marshal:

“What does officialdom care about these French ladies who did so much for us, now that the war is over?”

Pat O’Leary works behind the scenes to help and Dr. Heslop contacts his local M.P., Mr Fred Peart (Workington Constituency). Eventually, Olga is allowed to come back to Britain and returns to live with the Heslops at Cockermouth. However, by January 1947 Olga is writing to ‘Pat’ for advice, who by now has returned to live at Brussels, Belgium and living under his true identity of Dr. Albert Guérisse. There is ‘some tension’ between Olga and the ladies of the household (specifically Mrs Heslop). It is an awkward situation. What should she do? Olga has evidently heard about a family legacy in Ireland. Should she go there?

Dr. Guérisse (Pat), recommends that Olga goes to Ireland about the ‘legacy business’. He also tells her to forget “… the three wretched pounds” he had earlier lent her when they had met up in London. It seems he was short of money at this time.

After obtaining a visa to travel to Ireland, on 3 April 1947 Olga leaves for Ireland leaving behind almost all of her personal possessions at Cockermouth with the Heslop family. Was she planning to return to Cockermouth? The Heslop family thought so. Years later, when it was assumed she had died, her personal papers which were obviously of some historic value, were donated to the Cumbria County Archives service.

Sunday, 29 November, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

A partial solution of an enigma

When research of the collection of the enigmatic Olga Baudot de Rouville began, there was also the mystery of what had happened to her after April 1947. Could it be solved? Let us have a look at this investigation.

Did Olga live out her days in Ireland?

According to at least a couple of text books dealing with the escape and evasion lines of WW2 Olga Baudot de Rouville lived in County Cork (Ireland) and looked after a mission for seamen at Kinsale. However, nobody in the area was able to provide any further information as to whether this was true or not.

Several local newspapers in Ireland, but again with no positive outcome. The collection at the Cumbria Archives includes a small number of cards of Irish solicitors. It will be remembered that the main reason Olga went across to Ireland in 1947 was about a family legacy and so several solicitors were contacted, but again without a positive result.

Therefore all enquiries made to Ireland proved inconclusive.

Did Olga join an enclosed order of nuns?

Could Olga have entered an enclosed order of nuns, either in Ireland or in France? This seemed to be a plausible conjecture, especially when one considers her special devotion to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a Carmelite nun. However, in 1947 Olga was in her mid-50s which at that time might have been an obstacle had she applied to join a community.

Yet, as all her possessions were left behind at Cockermouth entry into the religious life seemed like a plausible possibility. In addition, there is an intriguing handwritten note in a pocket diary about how to ensure a personal letter to the Pope would be handed to him. Could this be because Olga had already been turned down for entry into an enclosed convent and she was going to make a direct appeal to the Pope?

Thus enquiries were made to a number of convents in Ireland and France, including the Carmelite convent at Lisieux. None of them had any record of Olga joining, or applying to join, their community.

The mystery of Olga’s whereabouts remained unsolved.

Sunday, 29 November, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The final days of a French wartime heroine

One enquiry that did provide a positive result was one made to the French Ministry of Defence. A document dated 15 September 1946 confirmed that Maud Baudot de Rouville, alias “Thérèse Martin” was a member of the “Pat O’Leary” network with the rank of Lieutenant and belonged to the French Resistance between 4 June 1940 and July 1944. She was awarded the Croix de Guerre with bronze palm and the Resistance Medal.

There was a further document in the French M.O.D. files dated 2 April 1976 which had a current address for Mademoiselle Maud Baudot de Rouville at Tourcoing, a short distance from Lille. Finally, here was positive documentary evidence about her whereabouts after 1947.

The next stage was an enquiry to the Town Hall at Tourcoing. The municipality at Tourcoing was good enough to find out about the last days of Olga Baudot de Rouville and provided copies of the relevant documents.

Olga Baudot de Rouville had died a few days before her 88th birthday on 9 December 1979. She had died not at Tourcoing but at Quimper, Brittany in the far N.W. of France. She was cremated three days later, on 12 December 1979. It was a quiet and unheralded end to the earthly life of a most remarkable French woman. During the Second World War Olga Baudot de Rouville gave much of her life and energy for France, for the Allies and for freedom.


Dedicated to the memory of Sister Olga Baudot de Rouville, alias “Thérèse Martin”
Born: Paris, France, 14 December 1891
Died: Quimper, Brittany, France, 9 December 1979.
May she have Eternal Rest.


Cumbria County Libraries and Archives Centres,
Whitehaven Archives and Local Studies Centre,
Scotch Street,
CA28 7NL

[Special thanks to Jacqueline Moore, Searchroom Assistant at the Whitehaven Archives and Local Studies Centre in cataloguing this collection].

Sunday, 29 November, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Further reading and research

(1) 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

(2) To read an article about Olga Baudot de Rouville / “Thérèse Martin” by a young student from Millom School, Cumbria (includes extracts from letters sent to Mlle. Baudot de Rouville from British P.O.W.s imprisoned in Germany) click on the following link:
Makewaves WW2 (Olga Baudot de Rouville)

(3) To read an article about ‘‘Pat O’Leary’’ / Dr Albert Guerisse’’ being awarded the George Cross, click on the following link:
An ‘Escape Line’ George Cross (“Pat O’Leary”)

(4) To read an article about the wartime treachery of the double agent Harold Cole click on the following link:
Cross, click on the following link:
The Wartime Treachery of Harold Cole

Sunday, 29 November, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...


Who better to provide the epitaph for Sister Olga Baudot de Rouville (alias Lieutenant “Thérèse Martin” of the wartime French Resistance) than St. Thérèse of Lisieux:

“Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, or even their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them.”

Monday, 30 November, 2015  

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