Advice needed finding information about my dad’s wartime contribution

Discussion in 'Top Secret' started by columbus, Aug 29, 2011.

  1. columbus

    columbus Junior Member

    Hello and thank you for taking the time to read this. I am researching the clandestine activities in North Africa 1940-1942 with the hope of gaining some sort of official recognition of the outstanding services my dad performed in secret and at great risk to his life.

    Below is a summary of his account gained primarily through personal interview.

    My father, Carmel Joseph Doublet (1904-1998) born in Malta, was employed in 1927 by the consular section of the British embassy in Tunis. He was fluent in Maltese, English, Italian, and French and also picked up Arabic while in this post. By the outset of WWII he was living with his wife and 3 children in a flat above the consulate.

    After the fall of France the British embassy closed and my dad together with his eldest son William, were employed (on loan) in the British Interests section of the US consulate in Tunis. Whilst working there he got to know US Vice Consul Pittman Springs who was recruited to join Robert Murphy’s group of US observers (aka the 12 Apostles). Springs was also recruited into the OSS.

    Working closely with Vice consul Springs, my dad organised and operated a team of agents which mainly consisted of French civil servants - most were telegraphists but they also included police officers, a priest and a Maltese Chemist. The team intercepted communications between Axis forces which were regularly passed onto Carmel. Copies of all intercepted telegrams and other information were taken from Tunis to Algiers by plane each weekend via diplomatic pouch.

    The British consul was re-opened as an Annex to the American Embassy which made his clandestine work easier and less open to scrutiny from the Italians and Germans.

    Later Carmel was supplied with a wireless radio transmitter, a special watch for scheduling transmissions together with the codename “Columbus” and from July 1942 he maintained daily contact with Malta, Tangiers (OSS run mother station Midway) and Gibraltar and possibly also London.

    Following the Torch landings he turned down the opportunity to leave Tunis with the Americans, as he did not wish to be parted from his family. Finally on 12th November, having received word the Gestapo were coming to arrest him, he fled for protection within the Swiss Embassy where he had been offered sanctuary. However, he was betrayed to the Germans and handed over when they came for him the following morning.

    After his arrest he was interviewed and put on a plane to Berlin where he was extensively interrogated for the following 40 days. He refused to divulge any information and was finally transferred to be interned as a diplomatic prisoner in Germany where he remained for almost 16 months. His son William had also been taken but after about 6 months managed to trace Carmel and was transferred to be re-united with him. On 1st March 1944 they were both put on a flight to Lisbon as part of an American organised prisoner exchange. Although given the option to go to America, understandably they chose to return to the rest of the family in Tunis.

    Carmel was interviewed by Foreign Office staff at the British consul in Lisbon and also by a British officer following his return to Tunis. Having signed the Official Secrets Act when he started working for the British consulate, Carmel was nervous to divulge all his activities with the Americans as he did not wish to jeopardise a return to his former post. The British Officer was unable to clarify whether he was working for the British or Americans and discussions of recognition ended there.

    Carmel did not consider his efforts in the war were appreciated by the British, in spite of once having received a message saying ‘keep up the good work’, when he was forwarding some of the many messages picked up in the Tunis area to London. Later he also became aware that various members of his team received the Legion d’honneur from the French government.

    Notes on progress:

    National Archives at Kew (PRO)
    I found the following entry in the Foreign Office lists for 1943 but was informed the file does not exist:

    Doublet, Carmel.
    Former member of Tunis Consular Staff:
    capture and imprisonment at Bad Neuenahr:
    report on excellent work for United States authorities: relief to dependants.


    US National Archives (NARA)
    There is an index card in the central files of the US Department of State, ca 1940-1945 which reads:

    Doublet, Carmel Joseph
    January 3, 1941
    Employee of Consulate at Tunis, Foreign Interest Work

    The card references a document in the 1940-1944 State Department central files, but a copy of the actual document was not found.

    I emailed Hal Vaughan (author of FDR’s 12 Apostles), as he mentions my dad in his book but the only reference he had come across was in Italian Foreign Ministry report, 1931-1945, 57.
    I have been unable to obtain this report.

    Any help would be gratefully appreciated, Neal Doublet
  2. Assam

    Assam Senior Member

    Hello Columbus,

    " gaining some sort of official recognition of the outstanding services my dad performed in secret and at great risk to his life".

    If by this you are referring to medalic recognition I am afraid that would be out of the question as far as the British are concerned.

    The British Government ruled off recomendations for WW2 awards in 1948 & as such they do not entertain such recommendations on a retrospective basis. Any hope of an award (the most approriate being a ranking within the Order of the British Empire) dissipated with his perceived beligerence during interrogation/debrief by the Britsh Officer.

    The rule is different regards to campaign medals, & it may be that being attached to a diplomatic mission may qualify him for a "special award" which is within the regulations of the various campaign medals for WW2.

    With regards to a French award, you would need to find out from the colleagues of your father (if still living) if their circumstances were identical & had your father bettered the cause of the French government in exile or the FFF. By this I mean had those colleagues/team members been co-opted into SOE et-al to serve allied forces (after your father was arrested) or what did they do after that may give them a hightened status for receiving an award, Obviously, whatever they did was to the betterment of the French cause & they were identified as doing this.

    The problem with foreign awards is that you have no standing to make an application. you can research & maybe if something solid comes up in French Archives you may be able to petition, I am not really sure how it works there, but they do have the provision for retrospective awards.

    I hope this is of help, but not exactly the answer you were hoping for.



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