Alix d'Unienville

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Alix Marrier d'Unienville, MBE (8 May 1918 – 10 November 2015) was a French-British spy who was a member of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during World War II and a courier for the French Section.[2]

Alix d'Unienville
Birth nameAlix Marrier d'Unienville
Nickname(s)Agent Myrtil/Marie-France[1]
Born(1918-05-08)8 May 1918
Vacoas-Phoenix, Mauritius
Died10 November 2015(2015-11-10) (aged 97)
Paris, France
AllegianceUnited Kingdom, France
Service/branchSpecial Operations Executive, French Resistance
Years of service1943–1944
RankField agent and guerrilla commander
Commands heldSOE F Section networks

BiographyEdit

D'Unienville was born in Mauritius to a wealthy French aristocratic family who moved back to France when she was six. She was brought up in a château near Vannes in Brittany. She held dual French and British citizenship. After managing to get to England she was employed writing propaganda leaflets at the Free French centre at Carlton Gardens, London before the Bureau Central de Renseignements et d'Action ordered her to report to the British secret headquarters.[3]

Commissioned (rank of Lieutenant) in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, she commenced SOE training at Beaulieu in June 1943. On 31 March 1944, she parachuted into Loir-et-Cher from a Halifax aircraft with millions in francs for the Gaullist delegate-general to distribute.[4] Adopting the alias Aline Bavelan, her cover story was she was born on the island of Réunion in 1922, moved to France in 1938 to study and was now the wife of a prisoner of war.[5]

Working in Paris using the codenames Myrtil and Marie-France, she was successful until 6 June 1944 when she was arrested with "Tristan" (Pierre-Henri Teitgen) outside Le Bon Marché in Paris.[6] She was taken to Avenue Foch for interrogation and was searched. They found and took away her cyanide pill.[3] She was held in Fresnes prison in solitary confinement. She pretended to be mentally ill to escape from Fresnes and to be transferred to Saint-Anne hospital. This plan was foiled by the Gestapo, who transferred her to La Pitié, a place associated with brutal atrocities of the Gestapo.[3]

D'Unienville, by once again eating and talking, was able to get herself transferred briefly to Saint-Anne, and then to the prison camp at Romainville, where she and another woman, Annie Hervé, hatched a plan to escape over the walls using a rope they made out of black curtains. The attempt was abandoned when Hervé was deported to Germany.

She was in the last convoy to be sent from Romainville towards Germany, but she was able to escape when the prisoners were sent across a road bridge over the Marne because the rail bridge had been destroyed by Allied bombing. She was then able to hide in two villages before being liberated by the Americans, whereupon she was able to return to Paris. After the war d'Unienville was employed as a war correspondent for US forces in south east Asia before she worked as an air hostess for Air France and became a writer of fiction and nonfiction.

DecorationsEdit

D'Unienville was appointed a Military Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by the British government. She was awarded the Legion d'honneur and the Croix de guerre by France.[5]

       

   

Member of the Order of the British Empire 1939–1945 Star France and Germany Star War Medal
Légion d'honneur
(Chevalier)
Croix de Guerre (France)

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Special Forces".
  2. ^ "Décès d'Alix d'Unienville, première femme prix Albert Londres". Le Figaro (in French).
  3. ^ a b c "Alix d'Unienville, SOE agent — obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 22 November 2015.
  4. ^ Stevenson, William (2011). Spymistress: The True Story of the Greatest Female Secret Agent of World War II. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. p. 416. ISBN 9781611452310. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Alix d'Unienville". The Times. 3 December 2015. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  6. ^ "Alix Marrier d'Unienville". Alliance Française de Londres. Retrieved 17 August 2018.

SourcesEdit