Andre Hue - SOE

January 14, 2005

André Hue
SOE officer who helped to disrupt German reinforcements to the Normandy battlefield after D-Day

ANDRÉ HUE entered the Second World War while having a shower aboard the French liner Champlain, which struck a mine off La Rochelle on June 18, 1940. The ship sank in 15 minutes but he and his half-brother, also a crew member, were picked up and taken to Casablanca. Despite the restrictions of the Franco-German armistice, he eventually reached the small Brittany town of Guer, west of Rennes, where his widowed Welsh mother was living, having been evacuated from Le Havre. Aged 17, Hue had been a trainee purser aboard the Champlain but, in the circumstances, was glad of a low profile job at Guer railway station.
Cleaning the station office and lighting the fire was his lot until the arrival of a German stationmaster provided a new interest. Guer had become a terminus for the rail re-supply of the German army of occupation in northern France. He was approached by a member of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), established on Winston Churchill’s order to “set German-occupied Europe ablaze”. The individual concerned was François Vallée, organiser of the SOE circuit codenamed Parson operating around Rennes.

Although in contact with several groups in the French Resistance, Vallée restrained them from acts of sabotage for fear of savage reprisals against the civilian population. Hue’s position in the railway office provided an alternative method of harassing the German lines of communication. He handed to Vallée copies of the load manifests of trains passing through Guer, and London was informed by radio of the freight concentrations the RAF should bomb. But when Hue set about forming his own Resistance group, with a view to receiving air drops of arms, someone talked carelessly and he fell under German suspicion. Warning of a Gestapo raid on the siding where he was working reached him just in time to make his escape.

Taking refuge within the Resistance, he worked in Brittany and along the Normandy coast as a courier between the groups, and collecting Allied pilots who had been shot down and avoided capture. By 1943 there was a well-established system for airmen to be taken off certain beaches in northern France by vessels of the Royal Navy’s 15th MGB Flotilla or trans-shipped at sea from French trawlers. Having established his reliability and personal courage, Hue was himself collected by MGB 502 in February 1944 and taken to England for training by the SOE.

He received a commission and, with the acting rank of captain, was parachuted into Brittany with a party of French SAS in the early hours of D-Day. It was his responsibility to guide the party, but having landed a considerable distance from the rest he had to bluff his way through several groups of the enemy to reach them. The SAS orders were to organise local resistance groups into small parties to cut the railway lines, blow up bridges and mine roads that the four German divisions in the peninsula would use to join the Normandy battle. As it was, the Germans had been ordered to man the coastal defences, so when the American VIII Corps swept along the roads towards Brest they found the main road junctions already under control of Les Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur (FFI), armed by airdrop and operating largely on SOE instructions.

They did not act with impunity. Although the FFI had more than 20,000 men in Brittany, the group Hue had joined lost 60 in a pitched battle with an 800-strong German battalion near Saint-Marcel in mid-June. The FFI eventually managed to break off the action and withdraw. Later, Hue took over command of the French SAS party when their commander was killed and continued organising and arming the FFI without pause. Once the remaining German force in Brittany had formed a perimeter round Brest, Hue was ordered back to England.

He was again parachuted into France on August 30 to join the Resistance in the Nièvre, west of Dijon. His principal task was to instruct the maquisards working with the SOE Gondolier circuit in use of the arms and sabotage equipment being dropped to them. While there he supervised the destruction of three bridges to be used by German units moving from the south of France to the Normandy battlefield, and the lifting of mines left by the enemy around the town of Luzy.

Aged only 20 during these exploits, he was one of the youngest officers to be awarded the DSO during the Second World War. He was also appointed a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour and awarded the Croix de Guerre with palm in January 1946.

André Hunter Alfred Hue was born in Swansea of a Welsh mother and French father. He went to school at Le Havre but when he was 14 his father died, leaving little money. He lied about his age and joined the French merchant marine, where his half-brother was already serving.

After the end of the war in Europe, he was granted the acting rank of major and sent to join the SOE in Ceylon. He was parachuted into Burma at the end of January 1945, to gather intelligence on Japanese troop dispositions and to try to direct the activities of Burmese guerrilla groups. Either by chance or warning, the Japanese attacked the landing zone. Narrowly avoiding capture, he managed to subsist in the jungle for 29 days without re-supply and, hardly surprisingly, wrote a critical report of the operational planning when he reached safety.

He served for several years in the British Army, first in Palestine during the final years of the British Mandate, then in Cyprus. His fluency in French made him the ideal choice for the post of British military attaché in Cambodia in 1954-55. He met his future wife in Phnom Penh, where she was a secretary attached to the British Embassy. Subsequently, after leaving the Army, he served with the Special Intelligence Service, MI6, in the Far East.

He resigned in 1967 to begin a business career. He worked for British American Tobacco in Paraguay and Senegal, with another business concern in Malawi and then for various companies in France. He retired in 1980 to Chichester, where he became a local councillor.

He married Maureen Taylor in 1957. He is survived by her and by their daughter.

André Hue, DSO, officer of the wartime Special Operations Executive, was born on December 7, 1923. He died on January 11, 2004, aged 81.
I have read his book, its call the
'The next full moon'
It is well worth the read and as far as i can tell it hasnt just been done to the public sector.

May he rest he peace.

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