Yvonne Rudelatt

Yvonne Rudelatt

Yvonne Rudelatt, the daughter of a wealthy wine-merchant at Maissons-Laffite in France, was born in 1895. She moved to England after marrying a London antique dealer and for over 20 years ran a successful interior decorating business in Kensington.

On the outbreak of the Second World War Rudelatt was working as a manageress of a London hotel where officers in the British Army stayed. This included Major Lewis Gielgud who worked for the French section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). When Gielgud realized she had a good knowledge of France he recruited her to the SOE.

Rudelatt completed her training successfully and was chosen to become the first woman agent sent to SOE into occupied Europe. In July 1943 Rudelatt accompanied Major Nicholas Bodington to Gibraltar before moving to Tours in France.

In September 1943, the SOE decided to establish a new network in and around Paris. Called Prosper it was to be led by Francis Suttill. Andrée Borrel was parachuted into France to prepare the way for Suttill who arrived on 1st October. Rudelatt became Suttill's courier and the team was joined by a wireless operator, Gilbert Norman in November. A second operator, Jack Agazarian, arrived the following month.

Rudelatt also took part in several sabotage operations. This included the destruction of the Chiany Power Station and the Bronzavia Works at Blois, which manufactured components for the Luftwaffe. She also helped to destroy more than two hundred high-tension electricity pylons and several locomotive sheds.

Francis Suttill arranged with the Special Operations Executive in London to drop arms and explosives to be used by the French Resistance. On 12th June 1943, Rudelatt was sent to Neuvy to receive the armaments. Several of the containers exploded and several members of the reception committee. A local farmer reported the incident and as a result 500 members of the SS were sent in to search for the special agents in the area.

On 20th June 1943, Rudelatt returned to the area to pick up two new SOE agents, Frank Pickersgill and John McAlister, who had just been parachuted into France. They were stopped by the SS and although they tried to race away shots were fired and Rudelatt was hit by two bullets before the car crashed. She was arrested and after being interrogated was deported to Germany. Yvonne Rudelatt died at Belsen Concentration Camp two weeks before the end of the war.