Andree Peel, WW2 heroine enjoys 104th birthday; RIP

Discussion in 'The Women of WW2' started by Peter Clare, Feb 4, 2009.

  1. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    BBC NEWS | England | Bristol | WWII heroine enjoys 104 birthday


    A French resistance heroine who saved more than 100 lives and survived a Nazi death squad has celebrated her 104th birthday at home in North Somerset.
    During World War II Andree Peel - known as Agent Rose - helped British and American pilots escape occupied Europe.
    After the war she received a personal letter from Winston Churchill congratulating her on her work.
    She was also presented with the Croix de Guerre, the American Medal of Freedom, and two Legions d'Honneur.
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    'Born with courage'
    When the Nazis invaded France she became involved in distributing secret newspapers before being promoted within the Resistance to head of an under-section.
    Agent Rose and her team used torches to guide allied planes to improvised landing strips and smuggled fugitive airmen onto submarines and gunboats.
    "I saved 102 pilots before being arrested, interrogated and tortured. I suffer still from that. I still have the pain," she said.
    She was being lined up to be shot by firing squad at Buchenwald when the American army arrived to liberate the prisoners.
    Mrs Peel met Englishman John Peel while working in Paris and came to live in the village of Long Ashton. "I was born with courage," said Mrs Peel. "I did not allow cruel people to find in me a person they could torture."
     
  2. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    And may this brave lady have many more.:)
     
  3. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek MOD

    Thanks Peter. Such bravery.
     
  4. militarycross

    militarycross Very Senior Member

    Great story. Living history of a dark time. Many Happy returns.
     
  5. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Cheers old girl....Have a wee sweet sherry on me ;)
    [​IMG]
     
  6. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Fantastic lady and typical of her generation.
     
  7. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    And may this brave lady have many more.:)


    Here, Here. I'll drink to that.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  8. Lucy Stag

    Lucy Stag Senior Member

  9. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    BBC News - WWII heroine Andree Peel dies in Long Ashton aged 105

    A French resistance heroine who saved more than 100 lives and survived a Nazi death squad has died at the age of 105.

    Known as Agent Rose, Andree Peel helped dozens of British and US pilots escape from occupied Europe. She lived near Bristol after marrying an Englishman.

    Mrs Peel, who lived at Long Ashton, was awarded a second Legion d'Honneur in 2009 to mark her bravery.

    After the war she received a personal letter from Winston Churchill congratulating her on her work.

    She also received the Croix de Guerre and the American Medal of Freedom.
    She was being lined up to be shot by firing squad at Buchenwald when the US Army arrived to liberate the prisoners.

    She moved to Paris and met her future husband John Peel.

    Commenting on her death Dr Liam Fox, Conservative MP for Woodspring, said: "Mrs Peel was an iconic figure who showed phenomenal courage in the most difficult circumstances.

    "Her selfless bravery saved many lives and she stands as a monument to the triumph of the human spirit, which will set an example for many generations to come."
     
  10. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    :poppy: Andree Peel R.I.P. :poppy:

    A true Heroin

    Tom
     
  11. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek MOD

    God Bless.
     
  12. Roxy

    Roxy Senior Member

  13. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    BBC News - WWII heroine Andree Peel dies in Long Ashton aged 105

    A French resistance heroine who saved more than 100 lives and survived a Nazi death squad has died at the age of 105.

    Known as Agent Rose, Andree Peel helped dozens of British and US pilots escape from occupied Europe. She lived near Bristol after marrying an Englishman.
    Mrs Peel, who lived at Long Ashton, was awarded a second Legion d'Honneur in 2009 to mark her bravery.
    After the war she received a personal letter from Winston Churchill congratulating her on her work.
    She also received the Croix de Guerre and the American Medal of Freedom.
    She was being lined up to be shot by a firing squad at the Buchenwald concentration camp when the US Army arrived to liberate the prisoners.

    'Phenomenal Courage'
    A former hairdresser from Brittany, Mrs Peel began her involvement with the resistance modestly, by handing out underground newspapers.
    Later she tracked troop movements and went on to head an under-section of the movement.
    Her network allowed Allied pilots to escape German captivity, hiding them and - where possible - smuggling them away from France in submarines and on small boats.
    She recounted her wartime experiences in her autobiography Miracles Do Happen, which was published in 1999.
    After the war she moved to Paris and met her future husband John Peel.
    Mr Peel, an academic, died some years ago and in recent years she formed a partnership with Brian Westaway, a fellow resident at Lambton House retirement home.
    Commenting on her death, Dr Liam Fox, Conservative MP for Woodspring, said: "Mrs Peel was an iconic figure who showed phenomenal courage in the most difficult circumstances.
    "Her selfless bravery saved many lives and she stands as a monument to the triumph of the human spirit, which will set an example for many generations to come."
     
  14. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    :poppy: Andree Peel RIP :poppy:

    Paul
     
  15. berjay

    berjay WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Many thanks to this dear brave lady, as I,m sure
    you will all agree! She received medals and honours from the American and French Government ,and a measly letter from the British. (N0 comment)
    Bernard
     
  16. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Hi Bernard,
    According to this article she received the King's Commendation for Brave Conduct from George VI

    Nice pic of her and her brother, a French General, pinning on her Legion d'Honneur
    WWII Resistance fighter marks her 104th birthday by breaking silence on wartime heroics | Mail Online

    A list of awards here:
    biography miracles Andrée Peel concentation camps Ravensbruck Buchenwald WW2 Brest
    Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur
    Croix de Guerre avec Palme,
    Croix de Guerre (étoile vermeil)
    Croix du CombattantVolontaire
    Médaille de la Résistance
    Croix de la Liberation
    American Medal of Freedom,
    King's Commendation for Brave Conduct
     
  17. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    Andrée Peel - Telegraph

    Andrée Peel, who died on March 5 aged 105, was a much-decorated heroine of the French Resistance; known as Agent Rose, she helped dozens of British and American pilots escape from occupied Europe and only escaped death at the hands of the Nazis by the skin of her teeth.


    Published: 7:11PM GMT 09 Mar 2010

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    [​IMG] Photo: SWNS



    [​IMG] Andree-Peel


    When the Germans invaded France, Andrée Virot, as she then was, was in her mid 30s and running her own beauty salon in the Breton port of Brest. Her first act of defiance took place as German troops entered the town, when she gave shelter to a group of fleeing French soldiers and begged her neighbours for civilian clothes for them so they would not be captured. She was subsequently amazed – and disconcerted – to find that German soldiers of all ranks had been taught fluent French and that some even spoke Breton.
    When General de Gaulle declared in his famous broadcast of June 18 1940 that "France has lost a battle, but she has not lost the war," Andrée and some friends got together to type out the message and slip copies through people's letterboxes. She soon became involved in the Resistance, circulating the organisation's clandestine newspaper. Within weeks she was made head of an under-section of the organisation, responsible for sending information to the Allies.

    Brest was an important naval base, and information about shipping movements was vital to the Allied war effort. By establishing contacts in the dockyard, Andrée was able to pass on information about naval installations, as well as about troop movements and the results of Allied aerial attacks.
    These were mainly directed at the harbour area, but many bombs missed their target and fell on the town. No one blamed the Allies. She recalled one man whose house had been destroyed leaping with joy when he found that his precious radio, on which he listened to the BBC, had survived intact. On another occasion she came across a group of teenage boys singing "What joy, Tommy, now that we are united at last" to a well known tune, as British bombs rained all around.
    During her three years with the Resistance – during which she was known first as Agent X and then as Agent Rose – Andrée helped save the lives of more than 100 Allied pilots. Her team used torches to guide Allied planes to improvised landing strips and smuggled fugitive airmen aboard submarines and gunboats on remote parts of the coast, often feeling their way in the dark past German coastal shelters.
    The work was extremely dangerous. Any family found harbouring an Allied airman risked being shot and in 1943 Andrée herself was forced to leave Brest after a comrade (who had been forced to watch his family being tortured by the Gestapo) informed on her.
    She fled to Paris and assumed another identity, but a week after D-Day she was again betrayed by a comrade, who confessed under torture. She was arrested and taken to Gestapo headquarters where she was stripped naked, interrogated and subjected to a series of tortures, including simulated drowning and being savagely beaten around the throat. As a result her gullet was displaced and her tonsils crushed. She continued to suffer pain for the rest of her life.
    Eventually she and other prisoners were transported to the women's concentration camp at Ravensbrück where, on arrival, they were forced to strip and frogmarched into what she later realised was a gas chamber. She never discovered why they were released since many others lost their lives. She noticed later that the camp did a brisk trade with local farmers who bought the ash from the camp crematorium to spread on their fields.
    Andrée narrowly escaped death on several more occasions. She fell ill with what a doctor told her was meningitis, but recovered. Then, during the daily roll call, she was selected for the gas chamber but was saved by a Polish fellow inmate who crept up to a table and snatched up the piece of paper with Andrée's number on it without being seen by the SS.
    Eventually she was transferred to Buchenwald concentration camp where life seemed easier, initially at least, and she was able to send messages to her family in Brest via French prisoners-of-war working in the fields outside.
    But, as the Allies closed in towards the end of April 1945, it became obvious that the Nazis were determined to obliterate evidence of their crimes. By the time she and a group of fellow prisoners were lined up against a wall, they had heard that some prisoners had been shot and others killed with flame throwers, so they had little doubt what was in store.
    As a firing squad drew near, she wrote later, the terrified prisoners heard a telephone ringing in the camp commandant's office. It was a message from the Americans to the effect that the firing squad had been seen entering the camp and that if they wanted to live, they would spare the lives of the prisoners. The soldiers fled.
    Andrée Peel was awarded the Croix de Guerre (with palm), the Croix de Guerre (silver star), the Cross of the Voluntary Fighter, the Medal of the Resistance, the Liberation Cross – all French awards – as well as the American Medal of Freedom, awarded by President Eisenhower, and the King's Commendation for Brave Conduct, given by George VI.
    After the war she received a personal letter from Winston Churchill congratulating her on her work. Much later, at age of 99, she was made a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur, France's highest honour, receiving the award from her own brother, General Maurice Virot, a retired four-star general.
    After her release from Buchenwald, Andrée returned to Paris where she was welcomed by crowds singing the Marseillaise, and fulfilled a promise made in 1944 to make a pilgrimage to the Sacré Coeur church in Montmartre to thank God for her deliverance.
    Andrée Marthe Virot was born on February 3 1905 into a religious and deeply patriotic French family. Her father was a civil engineer who specialised in building bridges. When she returned to a devastated Brest after the war, she learned that he had been killed after walking too close to a German soldier who was fishing using hand grenades. A brother had also lost his life in Germany while fighting in the ranks of the Free French.
    She returned to Paris where she became the manager of La Caravelle, a restaurant near the Luxembourg Gardens specialising in "first class cuisine at acceptable prices". News that she was a former Resistance worker attracted many clients including leading politicians and former Allied servicemen.
    One day a young English student called John Peel came into the restaurant. He was supposed to be learning French, but his accent was so comical that Andrée offered to give him lessons. Though he was 20 years her junior, a relationship developed, and they ended up getting married. Her husband made his career as a neuropsychologist at Barrow Gurney mental hospital in Bristol and they settled in a village nearby.
    Andrée always felt she had been born with a special gift: "Very often I could feel a kind of electric current at my fingertips, sometimes extremely hot, and this current passed out of my hands into the air. When I wanted to concentrate it and intensify it, my wish was granted". In Bristol she laid her "electric" hands on a woman who had been injured after stumbling on the stairs and discovered she had the gift of healing. "My future path had opened in front of me as if I had been guided thereto by some divine order," she recalled. She established herself as a healer and dietitian, building up a faithful list of clients.
    Though Andrée Peel always kept the striped blue-and-grey tunic she had been forced to wear in the concentration camps, she never intended to write a book about her experiences until it was suggested that by doing so she would be telling the stories of those who had not survived. Her autobiography, Miracles do Happen, appeared in 1999.
    When she celebrated her centenary, Andrée Peel said: "I still feel like a woman of 50. I think that time has forgotten me." The secret to a happy life, she observed, was a good companion – and eating the main meal of the day at lunchtime.
    Her husband predeceased her.
     
  18. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    What a wonderful woman.
    Ashamed to say I knew nothing of her before finding this thread.
    RIP :poppy:
     
  19. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    Mike, I think that's one of the benefits of websites like this.
    To ensure that, however long after the event, we do remember.
    It's hard to realise just how terrifying it must have been to be in an Occupied Country and in fear of betrayal, especially with such brutal acts including watching your family being tortured. I don't think many people would hold out for long, but sometimes giving up colleagues DIDN'T mean you or your family were saved, often the family as well as the betrayed were all sent to the camps.
    Sometimes the Germans were TOO efficient, and knowing your family wouldn't be set free worked against the Germans. After all, what was the point of betraying someone if it still didn't save you.
    Rest in Peace brave lady...
     
  20. soren1941

    soren1941 Living in Ypres

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