Wanborough Manor – School for Secret Agents
Patrick Yarnold

Cover of A Time of Change

The story of four years in the history of Wanborough Manor that played an important part in the British effort to promote resistance against the enemy during the Second World War.

RRP: £6.95

Availability: Available from the the publisher

Front cover: Painting of Wanborough Manor by Charles Bone (who also contributed pen sketches at chapter ends)

Paperback - 124 pages
Hopfield Publications, 93 The Street, Puttenham, Guildford GU3 1AT; October 2009

Back Cover . Introduction . Contents . Illustrations . About the Author . Further information

Back cover

For two and a half years during the Second World War, Wanborough Manor, a country house near Guildford, was a training school for a secret organisation, the Special Operations Executive (SOE). If they passed muster, the students from Wanborough went on to further training before being sent to France to support members of the local resistance.

This book describes the training at Wanborough and includes pen portraits of the agents. Many lost their lives, but the others survived to see the restoration of France’s freedom and the return of peace.


This is the story of a few years in the history of Wanborough Manor, an old house in West Surrey that played an important part in the British effort to promote resistance against the enemy during the Second World War. For four years it housed secret agents who were destined to go into 'the Field', as they called it, to work alongside resistance fighters in occupied countries, initially in Europe, and later in other parts of the world.

For the first two and a half years the Manor was one of half a dozen preliminary training centres for potential recruits to the organisation. For most of that time a Guards officer with a background in racing journalism commanded it. He spoke French after a fashion and was a shrewd judge of character and ability. The students who passed through Wanborough and were found suitable passed on to further training. If they then completed that training successfully, they were sent to France to help resistance throughout that country.

The great majority of French nationals who trained in Britain to work with the resistance were destined to work with General De Gaulle and his staff, and did not pass through Wanborough. There were, however, some French trainees there. Otherwise the majority of the Wanborough trainees were British, including many of French ancestry, at least in part. There were also some recruits from Canada, the United States, Mauritius and the Seychelles, as well as a few of even more exotic origins. What they had in common was at least some familiarity with France and the French language.

The successful recruits ranged in age from 18 to over 40, and came from a bewildering variety of backgrounds. They were nearly all men, but latterly the Manor also held women, 9 of whom were among the 50 women who served as agents in France. Some of the trainees were already in the armed forces, having volunteered after the outbreak of war, serving either as officers or other ranks, and a few were regular officers.

Most of the trainees, however, were civilians, who were given a commission in the Army, in the belief that it might offer them a measure of protection if captured by the Germans. They included a tobacco grower; a bus owner and a ship owner; as well as manufacturers of ice cream and upholstery. There were two bankers, a barrister, a diplomat, some journalists and travel agents, four schoolmasters, and people working in insurance. There were also a head waiter, and a chef at a golf club, as well as a taxi driver, a musical comedy actor, a racing driver, a fashion artist, a jockey, a racing trainer, two acrobats, and two boxers.

We have known since the 1950s that the S.O.E. had used Wanborough Manor as a training establishment, but apart from some tantalising references in various printed books it was impossible to find out anything of substance. Some of the official files of S.O.E. had perished in a fire shortly after the War, and others, including all the files of the Training Section, had been 'weeded' in the following years. Those that remained were in the custody of the Foreign Office (later Foreign and Commonwealth Office), but were closed.

The crucial event that made this short book possible was the decision in the mid-1990s to release the surviving files of S.O.E. to the National Archives (Public Record Office). As the files were gradually released it became apparent that, although all the files of the Training Section of S.O.E. were missing, it would nevertheless be possible to build up a picture of the régime at Wanborough and the students who trained there. Personal Files of individual agents (the last set to be released, with some remaining closed), together with headquarters files, supplemented by material lodged with the Imperial Museum, and books written by the agents themselves, as well as the official history 'SOE in France' by M R D Foot, between them gave enough information to make such a picture possible.

The following chapters, after giving some essential background information, try to tell the story of what happened at the Manor during the War, while setting the work there in its wider context. In doing so, we try to identify as many as possible of the Wanborough-trained agents who went to France; with one or two exceptions their fellow trainees who failed to make the grade remain anonymous. You will find a short biographical sketch of each of the agents, including some information on what happened to them once they reached France.

Of those who lived to tell the tale, most had managed to avoid detection and capture. Of those who were caught, some lucky ones escaped from detention in the Unoccupied Zone before it was taken over by the Germans in late 1942. A few other lucky ones, although captured by the Germans, secured prisoner-of-war status and were eventually liberated from Colditz Castle.

Another small group survived capture and incarceration in various concentration camps, before being liberated at the end of the War. But more than half of those agents who had passed through the Manor never came back. A few of those died naturally or were killed in action; the rest were caught by the Germans, and eventually shipped off to Germany, where nearly all of them were later killed in the concentration camps, sometimes in atrocious circumstances. We honour the memory of them all.


1. The Manor
2. Storm Clouds Gather
3. The Establishment of S.O.E.
4. Recruitment and Training
5. The French Section
6. Early Days at Wanborough
7. De Wesselow arrives
8. Heroes in the Making
9. Into the New Year
10. The Course is Extended
11. Doomed men and future leaders
12. More Training Parties
13. Two Large Parties
14. Three Small Parties
15. The Women Agents Arrive and De Wesselow leaves
16. The Last Courses at Wanborough
17. The Holding School and after
Appendix I - Carte
Appendix II - Déricourt
Appendix III - Gestapo
Appendix IV - Agents who survived
Appendix V - Agents who did not survive


Wanborough Manor in 1946
Map of France
Georges Begué
Michel Trotobas
Peter Churchill
Denis Rake
Richard Heslop
Brian Stonehouse
Claude de Baissac
Francis Suttill
Gilbert Norman
John Goldsmith
Philip Amphlett
Harry Rée
Yolande Beekman
Noor Inayat Khan
Diana Rowden
Pearl Witherington

Appendix IV

Agents who, having passed through Wanborough Manor, successfully completed their training, were sent to France,
and survived the War

George William Abbott
Claude Marie Marc de Baissac DSO
François Marcel Basin MBE MC
Georges Pierre André Bégué MC
Albert Victor André Beuret
Robert Boiteux
Henry Borosh MC
Anthony Morris Brooks DSO MC
Noel Fernand Raoul Burdeyron
Francis Charles Albert Cammaerts DSO
Joseph Christian Gabriel Chartrand
Pierre Louis le Chêne
Peter Morland Churchill DSO
Yvonne Cormeau MBE
Benjamin Hodkinson Cowburn MC
Harry Marcel Despaigne MC
Henri Louis Antonio Diacono
Albert Eskenazi
Adolf Feingold
Jack Thorez Fincken
Ernst Friedrich Floege
Raymond Henry Flower
John Gilbert Goldsmith DSO MC
Louis Lee-Graham
Jean Philippe Charles le Harivel
Jack Beresford Hayes MC
Victor Hyam Hazan
Richard Harry Heslop DSO
George François Hiller DSO
Norman Hinton
Christopher Sydney Hudson DSO
Alan Jickell
George Donovan Jones MC
Roger Landes MC
George Langelaan
Pierre Henri Adrian Lejeune
Philippe Liewer MC
John Alan Lodwick
René Amédée Louis Pierre Maingard DSO
Alfred W O Newton MBE
Henry G R Newton MBE
Henry Leonard Peulevé DSO
Denis Joseph Rake MC
Pierre Jean Louis Raynaud DSO
Gustave Claude Brooks Redding
Harry Alfred Rée DSO OBE
François William Michael Reeve
Marcel Louis Joseph Rousset MC
Robert M Sheppard
Maurice Southgate DSO
Arthur Albert George Staggs
George Reginald Starr DSO MC
John Ashford Renshaw Starr
Brian Julian Warry Stonehouse
Edouard Pierre de Vomécourt
Odette Wilen
Cecile Pearl Witherington MBE
Fergus Chalmers-Wright
Edward Zeff MC

Appendix V

Agents who, having passed through Wanborough Manor, successfully completed their training, were sent to France, and subsequently lost their lives on active service

Jack Charles Stanmore Agazarian
Philippe John Amphlett
James Frederick Amps
Joseph Antoine France Antelme OBE
Denis John Barrett
Yolande Elsa Maria Beekman
Gustave Daniel Albert Bieler
André Bloch
Marcus Bloom
Eric Joseph Cauchi
Marcel Clech
George Clement
Ted Cyril Coppin
Marcel Eusèbe Defence
Hugh Everard Joseph Dormer
Roland Dowlen
Philip Francis Duclos
Marcel Georges Florent Fox
Henri Hubert Gaillot
John Trevor Hamilton
Victor Charles Hayes
Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan GC MBE
Sidney Charles Jones
Clement Marc Jumeau
Lionel Lee MC
Cecily Margot Lefort
Vera Eugénie Leigh
Eugene Francis Levene
John Kenneth Macalister
André Adrien Jules Maugenet
James Francis George Menesson
François Gerard Michel
Isidore Newman
Gilbert Maurice Norman
Maurice Pertschuk MBE
Frank Herbert Pickersgill
Eliane Sophie Plewman
Adolph Rabinovitch MC
Brian Dominic Rafferty
Diana Hope Rowden MBE
Charles Milne Skepper MBE
Arthur Steele
Francis Alfred Suttill DSO
Paul Raymond Tessier
Michel Alfred Trotobas
François Vallée MC
Edward Mountford Wilkinson
William Charles Frederick Grover-Williams
Jean Worms
John Cuthbert Young MBE

About the author

Patrick Yarnold is a retired diplomat who lives across the Hog’s Back from Wanborough Manor. He has been interested in the French Section of SOE for more than 40 years. The progressive release of the organisation’s files from 1998 onwards finally made it possible for him to reconstruct to the story of SOE’s use of the Manor and of the agents who trained there.

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