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Marie-Madeleine Fourcade (8 November 1909, Marseille -20 July 1989, Paris) was the leader of the French Resistance network "Alliance", under the code name "Hérisson" ("Hedgehog") after the arrest of its former leader, Georges Loustaunau-Lacau, during the occupation of France in the Second World War.



Born Marie-Madeleine Bridou in Marseille, she grew up and attended convent schools in Shanghai where her father had a position with the French Maritime service.[1] She married young, with the future colonel Édouard Méric [fr]. They had two children, but the couple became estranged and she would not visit her children for years at a time.[1] During the war she had another child with the French Air Force pilot Leon Faye.[1] In 1936, Fourcade met and impressed the former French military intelligence officer Major Georges Loustaunau-Lacau, code name "Navarre".[1]

Wartime resistanceEdit

Fourcade worked with Navarre on his magazine L'ordre national, an espionage publication.[2] Navarre believed espionage to be crucial in the war effort. Navarre recruited Fourcade for a network of spies and to work on L'ordre national. She was barely 30 at this point.[3] Her first mission for Navarre was to create sections of unoccupied France, then recruit and assign an agent to these section.[4] This network became the "Alliance" (later called "Noah's Ark").[5]

In July 1941, a little over a year after the German invasion, Navarre was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison.[6] He had picked Fourcade to lead the movement he had started.[1] One example of her spying success was through her agent Jeannie Rousseau, who convinced a Wehrmacht officer to draw a rocket and a testing station on Peenemünde, thereby revealing the V2 rocket program to the Allies.[1] In late 1942, when the Vichy-governed part of France was also occupied by Germany, she evacuated to London, where she collaborated with the British intelligence, particularly via her friend Cmdr. Kenneth Cohen, an MI6 officer in charge of French intelligence.[1] She eventually returned to France to join her agents in the field and managed to avoid capture.[1]

Post-war activitiesEdit

Fourcade took care of 3,000 resistance agents and survivors, as well as social works and the publication of Mémorial de l'Alliance, dedicated to the resistance group's 429 dead. Despite her high profile position in the French resistance, being the leader of the longest-running spy network, Charles de Gaulle did not include her among the 1,038 people he designated resistance heroes (which included only 6 women altogether)[1]. Strangely she was not given the Order of the Liberation, though her husband Édouard Méric was.

From 1962, Fourcade chaired the Committee of Resistance Action, as well as the jury of honour of Maurice Papon in 1981. She remarried, was a mother of five children, a commander of the Légion d'honneur, vice president of the International Union of Resistance and Deportation from 1960 and the National Association of Medal-holders from 1947, and a member of the L.I.C.R.A.. Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was represented at the assembly of the European Communities and in 1982 chaired the Defence of Interests in France and Europe. Her last fights were for the end of the Lebanese conflict and the Klaus Barbie lawsuit in Lyon.

Marie-Madeleine Fourcade died at age 80, on 20 July 1989 at the military hospital of Val-de-Grâce; the government and the few survivors of the resistance group paid an exceptional homage to her on 26 July at the time of her funeral in the Saint-Louis Church of the Invalids, the first woman to have her funeral there, and her burial in the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise in Paris.

Noah's ArkEdit

Fourcade wrote a memoire of her wartime experience in the book L'Arche de Noé, published in 1968, later abridged and translated into English as Noah's Ark. She describes how, as a young woman in her early 30s, she became head of the underground intelligence network which was to become known as "The Alliance". The name of the book is a reference to the name given to the network by the Nazis, because it assigned animal names to its members, as code names. Fourcade's was "Hedgehog". Their assignment was to gather information about German troop and naval movements and logistics inside France, and transmit this intelligence to Britain, using a network of clandestine radio transmitters and couriers. It was extremely dangerous work, many of Fourcade's closest associates being captured, tortured and killed by the Gestapo. Some, however, were able to escape, including Fourcade herself, who escaped capture on two occasions. Arrested with her staff on 10 November 1942 she escaped, through a stroke of luck, and was taken by plane to London from where she continued to direct the network. After returning to France to direct the network on the ground, she was captured a second time. Her second escape was more harrowing: in the small hours of the morning, she stripped naked and was able to force her petite body between the bars of the cell window. At the conclusion of the war, she was decorated for her outstanding service.

The Preface to the much-abridged, and poorly-translated, British/US edition was written by Kenneth Cohen who was her wartime (and post-war) "controller" in SIS and the father to her godson.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kati Marton, Remembering a Woman Who Was a Leader of the French Resistance, The New York Times’', March 12, 2019.
  2. ^ Atwood, Kathryn (2011). Women Heroes of World War II. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. p. 61. ISBN 9781556529610.
  3. ^ Atwood. Women Heroes of World War II. p. 61.
  4. ^ Atwood. Women Heroes of World War II. p. 62.
  5. ^ Atwood. Women Heroes of World War II. p. 61.
  6. ^ Atwood. Women Heroes of World War II. p. 63.
  • Lynne Olson, Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler, Random House, March 5, 2019. ISBN 978-0812994766.
  • L'Arche de Noé - Marie-Madeleine Fourcade - Fayard - 1968
  • Noah's Ark, - Marie-Madeleine Fourcade O.B.E., George Allen & Unwin, London, 1974
  • Marie-Madeleine Fourcade , un chef de la Résistance - Michèle Cointet - Perrin - 2006
  • Ignatius, David (December 28, 1998). "After five decades, a spy tells her tale". Washington Post.<!—cited in Olson, p. 246-–>
  • Website [broken link]

See alsoEdit