Edward Yeo-Thomas

Edward Yeo-Thomas was born in London on 17th June 1902. The family moved to Dieppe in France and at the age of sixteen he lied about his age in order to participate in the First World War and in 1918 served as a dispatch rider.

Yeo-Thomas fought with the White Army in Poland during the Russian Civil War in 1919. Captured by the Red Army he only escaped execution by strangling a guard. After returning to France he did a variety of jobs before finding work in a fashion house in 1932.

In 1939 Yeo-Thomas joined the Royal Air Force. He was considered to be too old for flying duties was was instead recruited as intelligence officer. In 1942 he was transferred to the French Section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) where he became responsible for military planning.

Yeo-Thomas was parachuted into France on 26th February 1943. He joined up with Pierre Brossolette, the leader of the Comit d'Action Socialiste, and attempted to help unify the various resistance groups in France. They paved the way for Jean Moulin to be able to persuade the eight major resistance groups to form the Conseil National de la Resistance (CNR) in May 1943.

On 7th June 1943, Ren Hardy, an important member of the resistance in France, was arrested and tortured by Klaus Barbie and the Gestapo. They eventually obtained enough information to arrest Jean Moulin and Charles Delestraint. Moulin died while being tortured and Delestraint was sent to Dachau where he was killed near the end of the war.

Yeo-Thomas and Pierre Brossolette were in London at the time of these arrests and in September 1943 they returned to France to reorganize the French Resistance.

Back in England he met Winston Churchill who he eventually convinced to provide more financial and logistical support for the resistance. When he heard that Pierre Brossolette had been arrested he went back to France in an attempt to rescue him. This ended in failure and Yeo-Thomas was himself arrested by the French police while Brossolette committed suicide while being tortured by the Gestapo.

Yeo-Thomas was tortured in Fresnes Prison. He noticed that his German interrogators made a practice, whenever he was about to faint with pain, plunged him in cold water in order to revive him. He therefore carefully observed his own symptoms as he was about to faint and then simulated them in order to reduce the period of torture.

After failing to obtain any information from Yeo-Thomas the Gestapo sent him to Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Just before he was due to be executed Yeo-Thomas, with the help of a German guard, exchanged identities with a prisoner who had died of typhus. He then managed to escape and eventually reached the Allied troops advancing through Nazi Germany.

In 1946 Yeo-Thomas gave evidence that helped to send 22 members of staff at Buchenwald to the gallows. He was awarded the George Cross and the Military Cross by the British government and after returning to France he became the Paris representative of the Federation of British Industries. Edward Yeo-Thomas died on 26th February, 1964.

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