He was nothing of the typical hero, he was short in stature and looked rather unassuming.
But on this night of August 25 1941 as he left the brittish submarine into a rather dismal
looking wooden row boat. He looked even smaller than his five foot and seven inches and
one hundred and fourty pounds.
Rowing up the small river into the Nazi controlled French countryside, he knew he had to
row hard if he was to make rendez vous point by morning. He was a Canadian from Montreal
spoke French, English and German.
For a year now he had been trained as a saboteur and was there to make life a living hell for
the German occupation troops. His contact was a Frenchman, a “resistant” who was just as
determined to get the German out of his country.
Rowing was becoming easier as the incoming tide pushed him along. The faint glow of the rising
sun was showing to the east and he rowed faster still, his harms were begining to show strains.
But he kept the pace breathing in time to his rowing to conserve energy.
As the morning light illuminated the countryside weakly he spotted the bridge and positioning himself
near the left bank he let the anchor in the water quietly and reached for the fishing rod. He baited
it and deftly casted for the center of the river.
All he had to do now was wait.
He yawned and rubbed his eyes, the glare from the water and lack of sleep
made him drowsy. A voice from the bridge startled him;
“You won’t catch much from there” There was a peculiar accent to the French
the woman was using, must be a local thing.
“I just like being on the water” He replied.
“Are there trouts in this river?” that was the opening code.
“Yes, but I much prefer meat myself” The contact was answered.
She looked around than said “Hotel des marais in 30 minutes”
Then she left, she was nice with long brown hair mid twenties,
he watched her walked away she had a nice figure and an elegant walk.
He looked at his watch, good! perhaps he can get a room there and sleep
for a few hours after the meeting. He took his time putting away the fishing
gear then brought the boat to shore. He came up the embankment and started
walking toward the center of the village.
“Halt!” He heard the command and turned around. Two German soldiers
walked toward him and demanded his papers. Their French was lousy and
he did not make it easier.
“Name?” Asked the corporal.
“Antoine Boucher” He replied.
“You are from Paris, what are you doing here?” Ask the soldier.
“Fishing” he said smiling and pointing at the river.
“Ah! Tourist!” Said the soldier
“No vacation!” He said.
The soldier gave him back his paper saluted and walked back.
He continued to the village found the hotel and walked in. The lobby
had a little cafe and he spotted the brown-haired women. She motioned
for him to join her.
He did, no sooner had he sat down a waiter appeared “Cafe creme s’il vous plait”
he told the waiter.
“My name is Germaine.” She said.
“Antoine Boucher” He replied.
She smiled understanding he was giving her his code name.
Again he yawned, “Is this hotel safe?”
“As safe as anywhere these days” She replied.
“Good! I need to get some sleep” he said
She nodded “Be here tonight at eight, we are going for a drive”
The waiter brought his coffee after he left he said;
“I will be here”
She left him with his coffee and he called the waiter over asking
if there was a room available. The waiter told him yes and he asked
to be awaken at 6pm for the supper meal.
He went to his room, and just took his shoes off and covered himself
with the top blanket and promptly fell asleep.
After the wake up call he came down to the lobby and ordered the special
du jour which was a “Civet the Lapin” a kind of rabbit casserole. He had
finished his meal by the time Germaine return with a man in his early
He got up and pulled out a chair for her but she said;
“No time, we must go”
He went to the counter and paid for his meal and joined them outside.
they walked about a block to a black sedan with a weird tank on the roof.
Alternative fuels are a fact of life in France these days.
They drove for about twenty-minute and pulled in to a tree-lined private
road to a squat manor. They entered the building which was obviously
undergoing some renovations.
Germaine introduced the man as Roger, who took him downstairs to the cellar.
the passed racks of dusty wine bottles to a small hidden room while Germaine
kept watch at the window.
He had to memorize a list of fifty safe houses and about a dozen drop zones
“If you don’t use any of them it’s even better” Said Roger.
He understood the risk as well as Roger did, but he had a mission and that
took precedence over personal safety, his and others as well.
Next he heard three short taps, Roger said “Come, quickly! Germans”
They left the little room concealing it as they did then Roger went over to a shelf
grabbed a bottle spilled about half down a sink the gargled with a good swig
and passed the bottle to Antoine who did likewise.
Still grabbing the bottle they entered the room holding on to each other
seemingly drunk. In the room with Germaine was a tall officer in an SS uniformed
“The black crow” He had an amused look on his face as he eyed the drunken pair.
Antoine still holding the bottle went over to the officer and slurringly said:
“Want a swig of this panoleon cognac, isssgood!?”
The officer refused.
Antoine as all drunk do insisted:
“Come on, just a little ship, it’s nopalonne cognac”
Again the officer turned him down Antoine looked crossed then beamed
and said “Maybe, they woullikeshome?” pointing at the two soldier by the door.
The Officer ignored him and asked “Anyone else here?”
“Mon dieu! I hope not!” Antoine replied cradling his bottle and looking
around suspiciously.”They want to steal my ponaleon cognac!”
The officer laughed, saluted arrogantly, and left. as soon as the door closed
Antoine let a sigh of relief and both Germaine and Roger laughed at his antic.
“You make for a funny drunk Antoine” Exclaimed Germaine.
Antoine lifted the bottle and solemnly said;
Monsieur Napoleon, I apologised for the misuse of your name and took another
swig and passed the bottle over to Germaine.
Later that night as he layed in bed wondering how he had gotten himself
in this situation. Oh yeah! He volunteered!
What deranged nightmarish world he lived in all because of the visions of
one man called Hitler. Hard to believe that barely a decade ago Germany
was a bankrupt country that had been written off by the other nations.
Now they controlled europe, and being here he knew they would not be happy
until they ruled the whole planet! It will take the might of the world to
stop them as well.
He was but one man, as insignificant as a mosquito on an elephant!
But that could make it stop long enough to scratch being from Canada he had
seen bears and mooses driven mad by hordes of mosquitoes and black flies.
He understood the value of his mission.
In London he had met with General De Gaulle, who ran the French Free Forces.
A brave man shamed by the action of his government. The Vichy collaborators
he remembers how the General had spit at the mention of the name in utter disgust.
“Do not be deceived by propaganda the French people are fighting back!
At a terrible price! The Germans are committing massacre in revenge.
Just last week they murdered every man woman and child in a small village
in retaliation for the actions of a “maquis” group as the resistance was
known in France.”
But De Gaulle assured him that they will continue to fight against all odds until
France is liberated and the stains of Vichy and the ignominies of the Germans
occupation are erased.
He was fascinated by the mistrust between De Gaulle and Churchill France
and England had been at war for centuries, France even ruled England for awhile
that his why the arms of England reads “Honi soit qui mal y pense” Which
roughly translated means “Shame on him who thinks this evil”
And with these thought he fell asleep, a strange restless sleep in keeping
with the unknowns awaiting him tomorrow as his mission begins in earnest.
The car was ready by lunch, the seat had been modified to conceal the
explosives and timers he would need. His first target was an ambitious
one, the headquarters of the SS for the region.
The crows nest as it was known by the locals, in reference to the black uniforms.
It was an old building built in the mid 1700, a shame really but nothing
in this war is beyond sacrifice not even his life.
He parked about a block away with a good view of the three-story building.
It was well protected, with sandbagged machine gun pits at the front, foot
patrols circling the building nonchalantly. Barbed wired security zone all
around the perimeter.
He looked at his watch, it would be sunset in about 3 hours, he started the
car and drove around. looking at various escape routes when he came upon the
In an open yard he saw a fleet of vehicles from the local electric company.
it was an open yard not even a fence! Surely there will be a guard at night
so he will have to be careful.
He spotted a little cafe just half way up the block. Assuming this would
be likely spot for employees to gather he decided to give it a look. The
place was clean and priced for the working class. He ordered a meal, ate
quietly and listened for any bits of useful information.
By the time he ordered dessert he knew all he needed to know. Some looked
at him suspiciously but that is to be expected in the current climate.
Occupation is a pernicious situation that breeds a lot of suspicions
He paid for his meal and left, later that evening he returned parked near
the cafe and made his way to the yard. He found a truck that was unlocked
and the keys were in the glove box he started the vehicle and drove off.
he parked behind his car. he opened the back of the truck and found some
He placed some explosives in the bottom and covered them with a tray piled
with tools. In the back was also a frock with the logo of the electrical
company. It was a size too big but would pass.
He also found a work order pad and penned in the information for the SS headquarter.
He figured they might not noticed it was not typed. He drove to the front of the building
where an a machine gun wielding sentry motioned for him to drive around back.
He parked the truck took the pad and two toolbox and took a deep breath.
Two soldier on patrol came out and asked him for id. He showed them the pad
and gesticulated that he had to get going he four more call after this.
The guards showed him to the door and he asked directions to the basement.
As he had expected, things were more relaxed on the night shift. The reception
soldier looked at his pad, then check a list and seemed annoyed not to find
a listing. He looked at his watch and wondered if should call his superior
and decided against it.
“Basement? sous sol?” asked Antoine.
The man called a soldier “Hans! Take him downstairs!”
When he picked up his toolboxes the man stopped him and pointed to the one
called Hans to check them. He looked inside and closed them nodding to the man.
They went downstairs and Antoine opened a toolbox and took some kind of
metered apparatus flicked it on and started moving around the room.
Once in a while he would make a sound then he went to the fuse box opened
it and peeked inside and said “AaaaH!I see!” He returned to his toolbox.
He took a flashlight out and told the guard “Electricity kaput 10 minutes”
and pointed upstairs.The guard looked at him questioningly then smiled
and went upstairs.
Quickly he installed the first charge on the support beam, then moved on to
the next he placed the charges close to the ceiling on the support beam.
Two more to do, he was working as fast as he dared. Then he returned to
the fuse box and shut the power down.
Now working with only his flashlight he was busy placing the last charge
when he heard the guard returning. He pointed the flashlight at the guard
blinding him before lighting the steps for him as he came down.
He went trough the motion of following some wires then called the guard
over and with his flashlight pointed at some wire that had been chewed.
“Rats!” And he made a face while making chewing and gnawing motions.
He returned to the fuse box and flip the switch back on.
“Have to come back tomorrow.” Said Antoine. he took up his two toolboxes
and made his way back up. Has he came on the landing he turned toward the door
and his heart skipped a beat.
There in the doorway talking with another officer was the major he had seen at the house
he cursed inwardly. He brought his cap low and put one box on his shoulder
that should conceal him. he was beside the major when a shout came from the
reception he turned back and away from the major to see the guard running his
workpad to him.
He finally left the building and put the boxes in the back of the truck and drove off
he abandoned the stolen vehicle and got into his car and drove out-of-town.
He looked at his watch he had ten minutes before detonation.
People thought an earthquake was upon them. The ground shook then a deafening explosion.
Windows shattered debris flying everywhere. Nearby a man walking his dog fell from the impact
of the wave blast, his dog running away yelping madly his tail between his leg.
The SS headquarter was a mass of burning rubbles, bodies and body parts all over. A cloud of dust
and smoke spread throughout the village. In the center of the rubbles a screaming flame reached into
the sky as the gas main had ruptured. No villager were hurt in retaliation as the gas main was
blamed for the terrible explosion.
Firemen rushed to the scene but there was little that could be done. Out of the estimated one
hundred and twenty people in the building there was only one survivor, a guard who when patrolling
the perimeter had slipped behind an adjacent building to relieve himself.
Outwardly people were talking of the event as a terrible disaster while inwardly celebrating
the calamity that had befallen those “Sale boches!” Which loosely translated meant “Dirty krauts”.
it took days to clean and repair the damage caused by the explosion.
On the plus side the influx of Germans and curious from the surrounding towns brought in a lot
of money to local businesses. But people will talk about this night for a long time to come.
For a week afterward, Germans sifted the debris for anything that could be salvaged. However
very little remained, that was of any use. The fireproof safe was saved and recuperated but
beyond that everything was destroyed.
As soon as the German had left the locals went at it, looking for a souvenir. One took a piece of
a flag, another found a partly burnt picture of Hitler that had hung in the General’s office.
One found a luger pistol still in the burnt leather holster.
Mementoes that will add veracity to the tall tales they will one day tell their grand children.
About a summer night in August of 41. Nobody slept much that night but the next few days, the
people had a kind of swagger in their walk and a strange grin on their faces.