Excerpt from “Colonel Henri’s Story” by Hugo Bleicher ~~Odette~~

We arrived back there in darkness. I was anxious to have a look at the Hotel de la Poste, where I had eaten lunch on my first visit to St. Jorioz. I sent Kiki ahead of me and told him to ask whether any of the organization were still there, as he brought important news from Paris. Kiki came back to me at once and said that apparently there were still some members of the organisation there. I put a cordon of Italian soldiers round the house immediately and was about to enter with the Italian officer when two men dashed out and into the darkness in headlong flight. It turned out that one of them was the wireless operator Arnaud for whom we had long searched. I did not attempt to follow them, as it seemed to me more important to apprehend the others in the house. I was right to do so. A surprise was in store for us beyond our wildest dreams.

Editor:
It seems to have escaped the notice of Bleicher that the French Chief of Police in Annecy was aware of his movements, and at the risk of his own life sent a warning ahead of Bleicher to the St. Jorioz group. I am informed by Colonel Jacques Adam, Commander of the Jean-Marie resistance group, that this gallant French police officer was arrested, deported and died in Germany.
A second point to me made in regard to this narrative is that neither of the two men who vanished in headlong flight from the Hotel de la Poste was Arnaud, alias Captain A. Rabinovich, whose billet was not in St. Jorioz and who for some time managed to evade capture, having been sent away on the previous day by Captain Churchill.

There were still a few guests in the Hotel de la Poste whom I assembled in the hall of the hotel, together with the hôtelier and his staff. I was just putting the first question to them when down the stairs came a woman, whom I recognised as the energetic Englishwoman who had scolded Louis during my first visit to St. Jorioz.
So this was “Lise”, the renowned Odette! I had managed to find out something about her in the meantime. She played a prominent part in the Secret Service and had done signal services to the Allied war effort by obtaining plans of the dock installations and reconnoitring the port of Marseilles. It had been related to me by agents that Odette was the wife of Peter Churchill, a nephew of the British Prime Minister, and that she worked with him here. The version that he was a close relative of Winston Churchill was spread about to give him greater prestige in the French Resistance, as well as a safeguard if he fell into the hands of the Germans.
Odette was a Frenchwoman by birth, married first to a Frenchman, Sansom, and mother of three children. She received the order of the George Cross from King George VI and was decorated by the President of the French Republic with the Cross of the Legion of Honour. After the war the film “Odette” made her world famous.
I had little idea then what celebrity I was encountering on that night of April 16th, 1943. Wrapped in a dressing gown and personifying calmness itself, she came downstairs as if trouble in the hall was nothing to do with her. She had the intention, I think, of walking straight past us, and I was so taken aback that I only prevented her doing so at the last moment.
Peter Churchill could not be far away, it seemed to me, with Odette here.
I left the others in the guard of the Italians and asked Odette to show me her room. We walked upstairs, accompanied by the Italian officer. Odette showed no sign of distress. She had grasped the situation and was resigned to her fate.
Odette opened the door of her room without a word. I asked her to go ahead. It was a simple bedroom, such as you find in any country hotel. I ceased to watch Odette and looked into the room next door. There in bed lay a young man, perhaps thirty to thirty-five years old, in an elegant pair of pyjamas. He smiled quietly at me as he lay there. The book that he had apparently been reading was posed on the coverlet. He got slowly out of bed and stood before me, an athletic-looking fellow with pleasant features. I asked for his identity card. Without a sign of nervousness, he asked Odette to hand him his jacket, pulled the card out of a pocket and held it out to me. I read the name Pierre Chambrun. I felt that there could no longer be any doubt, and that this was Peter Churchill, known to us also as Pierre Chauvet and more frequently still as “Raoul”.

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1 Comment

Filed under Literature, Military, Non-Fiction

One response to “Excerpt from “Colonel Henri’s Story” by Hugo Bleicher ~~Odette~~

  1. Hugo Bleicher was born in Tettnang, Germany on 9 August 1899, and died in August 1982, aged 83 years.
    “Colonel Henri’s Story” was published in 1954.
    Odette Sansom and Peter Churchill were imprisoned, but survived the war, and married in 1947.
    At the time of their capture, they were not married (Odette was already married to Roy Sansom), and Churchill was no relative of the British Prime Minister.

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