This is the story of the bizarre role played by Barbara Bertram in the Second World War. From 1941 to 1944 she provided board and lodging in her Sussex farmhouse to men and women of the French Resistance who, acting as intelligence agents for the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), were flown by moonlight in and out of Tangmere aerodrome by RAF Lysander pilots. Barbara’s husband was a conducting officer for the SIS and his house, Bignor Manor, near Petworth, was deemed to be the perfect undercover stopover for agents waiting for their flight into occupied France.
As well as Barbara’s experiences, which included sewing suicide pills into the cuffs of agents who requested it, the book follows the mixed fortunes of the Lysander pilots and the agents themselves, several of whom were captured, tortured and killed in their efforts to get German military intelligence back to the UK.
While the exploits of Churchill’s SOE saboteur agents are well documented, the intelligence-gathering work of individuals featured in this book, such as Gilbert Renault (aka Rémy), Christian Pineau and Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, and their dealings with the SIS are hitherto sparsely recorded in accounts of the Second World War. The networks they formed were responsible for providing detailed information to the allies on much of Hitler’s key weaponry, including U-boat and battleship movements, the Normandy defences and the V1 and V2 flying bombs. Now, for the first time, their story will be told in full.