Captain Paul Tessier F Section SOE

Carol Brown’s History of Stoughton

During the Second World War a group of very brave men and women known as the Special Operations Executive (SOE) were tasked with a range of missions, including espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance, to undermine the Nazis in Europe. Captain Paul Tessier was one such brave man. Captain Tessier’s wife and children lived in Stoughton during the war, and had he survived he would have returned to live here too.

The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was officially formed on 22nd July 1940 by Hugh Dalton, the then Minister of Economic Warfare. Churchill famously instructed him to “set Europe ablaze”.

The SOE were to work with the resistance in occupied countries, to train and arm them for acts of subversion and sabotage, especially in the days leading to the allied Invasion. They would also send important information about troop movements and German run industries back to London.

The SOE memorial at Valencay

Captain Paul Tessier, Reconnaissance Corps, transferred to F (French) Section of SOE and began his training in 1943 at Preliminary Training School STS 5 Wanborough Manor, just off the Hogs Back, Guildford.

Wanborough Manor, Guildford

Early in the war Tessier’s wife, Lily (maiden name Flowerday) moved from London to Liddington Hall Drive in Guildford with her children to be near her parents, then to Byrefield Road, Stoughton. During his training at Wanborough Tessier’s training report for 1st April 1943 states: “He is thoroughly security minded and keen on the work. He sulks if things don’t go as he likes. His wife came down to Guildford to stay with her mother, and he saw her of course on Thursday.”

“And now go and set Europe ablaze.”
Winston Churchill, 22 July 1940

Tessier even took some of his training officers home to dinner with his wife, which he realised was a mistake and admitted to it.

The report also, rather scathingly, continues: “A tough and extremely enthusiastic British Officer, who although not very intelligent, has good powers of observation.”

After completing training Tessier was parachuted into France with a fellow agent to work with a resistance circuit in Northern France. The mission was to destroy a German run factory, which proved to be abandoned, however they managed to escape France via Spain and return to England.

Tessier was parachuted into France again in January 1944, this time with instructions to undertake sabotage in the San-Quentin area. His fellow agents, Guy Bieler and Yolande Beekman, were arrested four days later in a trap set up by the Germans, and Tessier himself three days after that. All three were tortured while imprisoned in San-Quentin before being taken to Paris. Tessier was imprisoned at 4 Bis de Place and interrogated at the infamous Avenue Foche.

Amazingly, he managed to escape from Bis de Place by scraping a hole through a wall. Even though he was a known British Agent with the Gestapo after him, he decided to stay in Paris to help the resistance, showing incredible courage, when he could have been taken back to England, his wife and children and safety. He was able to get important messages to London about other agents he had seen in captivity, but more importantly, to alert London to the capture of Yolande Beekman, her radio and codes. This would have enabled the Gestapo to play a ‘funkspiel’ – sending false messages to London, leading to the capture of many other agents plus the capture of arms sent for the resistance.

On the 26th August 1944, while de Gaulle was celebrating the liberation of Paris, Tessier was taking arms from Paris to the resistance group at Lagny with 3 others when they were ambushed by Germans and he was killed.

Capt. Tessier received a Mention in Despatches, but F Section said had he survived he would have received a Distinguished Service Order (DSO).

Tessier was an incredibly brave man. Like all the SOE agents, he volunteered for undercover work knowing how dangerous it was. He is remembered on the SOE F Section memorial at Valencay, along with 103 other agents who were executed or killed in action in France and buried at Lagny communal cemetery where the public square is named after him.

The square at Lagny named after Tessier

Tessier’s grave, Lagny Communal Cemetery

Tessier was an incredibly brave man. Like all the SOE agents, he volunteered for undercover work knowing how dangerous it was.

To find out more about Tessier visit the Facebook site set up by his son and grandson:

For more information about the 104 F Section agents visit author Paul McCue’s website at

If you are interested in finding out more about the secret operations and the people that undertook them visit the Secret WW2 Learning Website

Captain Paul Tessier’s file can be seen at The National Archives Ref. HS9/1453/2

To read more about the training of the SOE there is also a book available on Amazon – Wanborough Manor: School for Secret Agents by Patrick Yarland (Hopfield Publications 2009).

Commemorative stone at Lagny su Marne