Harry Despaigne

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by convoy_cock, Aug 2, 2004.

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  1. I was talking to my wifes Grandad while we were down in Cornwall. He's a top bloke, just short of 90 but with all his marbles.

    He fought in WW2 with the Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry and is a lairy old codger who likes nothing more than recounting his scrapping stories.

    A mate of his died last year and I said i'd do a bit of looking up on the internet for him.

    He was called Harry Despaigne, who started the war as a tom but finished as a half colonel. According to Grandad in law, he was a right dude. They were in basic together, but Harry went on to clean up on the medal front. Because his mum was french and he was fluent, he spent most of his time working with the resistance etc.

    I've just done a quick search on google etc, but can't get his name pitching up anywhere. Either Hughs' a massive bullsh*tter or i'm looking in the wrong places.

    Any suggestions?
     
  2. http://www.lemilitarial.com

    Go to site direct click on resistance and boigraphies and you will find Major Richardson the artist formerly known as Harry Despaigne. Even from my bad french it sounds like he was a player............... :wink:
     
  3. Cheers for that. It gives me a good starting point.

    Are there any books on British soldiers who fought with the resistance? I wouldn't mind digging one out, as long as it's in English.
     
  4. The Special Operations Executive were in action in Europe and the Far East from 1940-1946 and Despaigne would more than likely have worked for Maurice Buckmaster the head of F Section which ran French resistance agents who were assisted by Brits dropped into occupied France to train and work with the Maquis. They were known as the Baker Street Irregulars but the SOE actually began life as D Section of MI6. They were disbanded offically in 1946 and several serving members were subsumed into SIS - Secret Intelligence Service. There should be lots of stuff on them out on the internet. :wink:

    In terms of the current family have a look on some of the family tree/ancestry/forcesreunited sites to track down him or his relatives etc Theres a piccie of Despaigne at the bottom of the biograpies link still looking old and bold in 1988 when they gave him the Legion D'Honneur!
     
  5. For anyone who's interested, i've dug up a fair bit of info about Harry.

    He was indeed a bit of a player, working in France for a couple of years before heading out to the far east with Force 136. Most of the stuff i've got is in French, but i've translated his citation for the Croix de Guerre (avec palme)

    "This British Officer volunteered for special missions in occupied territory. Parachuted in as a radio operator close to Marseilles on June 17 1942. Due to a very serious threat by the Gestapo he had to make his escape, returning to London via Spain. He immediately volunteered for a new mission and returned to France on the 17 September 1943 by plane for operations in the South-West. He was not content to make a permanent contact with the forces of the French Interior but took an active part in the formation of the Black Mountain Commandos. He took part in multiple engagements which aided the maquis but could have caused terrible retribution on him by the enemy. In combat on the 23 April 1944 near Lagaune 52 Germans were killed. On the 16 June near Rousse 47 Germans were killed. On the 30 June near Saint Pons 50 Germans were killed and 20 taken prisoner with minimal losses to the maquis. For having the beautiful qualities of courage, discipline and tenacity. For embracing the ideal of triumph for the common cause, Captain Despaigne is a perfect example of the solid British-French friendship.

    For this he is awarded the Military Cross with palm."


    I think if I was writing the citations I would have added "Harry, you were a right fcuking dude"