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Major Francis Alfred Suttill DSO (17 March 1910 – 23 March 1945) was a British special agent who worked for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) inside France. He organized and coordinated the Physician network, better known by his own code name Prosper. He was captured and killed by the Nazis.

Contents

Early years

Suttill was born in Mons-en-Barœul near Lille, France, to an English father, William Francis Suttill, and a French mother, Blanche Marie-Louise Degrave. His father managed a textile manufacturing plant in Lille. Suttill studied at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, England. For the school year 1927/8, he attended the College de Marcq in Mons-en-Barœul, gaining his Baccalaureat. He then read law at the University of Lille and was accepted as an external student at University College London. In 1931, he moved to London to continue his studies and eventually became a barrister at Lincoln's Inn. He married in 1935 and had 2 sons.

Wartime activities

In May 1940 he was commissioned into the East Surrey Regiment of the British Army. He was later recruited by the SOE, and after being trained during the summer of 1942, Suttill was chosen to create a new resistance network in northern France, based in Paris, with the operational name Physician. His code name was Prosper and his assumed identity was François Desprées.

On 24 September 1942, his courier Andrée Borrel, aka Denise, was parachuted in France to prepare for his arrival. He himself parachuted into France on 1 October 1942. Suttill and Borrel, posing as brother and sister, traveled around a large part of northern France to start building their network, known in France as Physician-Prosper. They were joined by wireless operators Gilbert Norman (Archambaud) in November, and Jack Agazarian (Marcel) in December.

During the first half of 1943, the Prosper network grew considerably, covering a large part of northern France, and involving an increasing number of locally recruited agents. Although SOE’s policy was that circuits should remain separate from each other, circumstances dictated that almost all of the other circuits sent to northern France in the first half of 1943 had to rely on the Prosper organisation for radio communication with London.

On 15 May 1943, Suttill returned to London for reasons which remain obscure. He was parachuted back in France over Romorantin on 21 May 1943, with another SOE agent, France Antelme.

The arrests

Suttill was sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin where he was held in solitary confinement in the prison block until he was killed in March 1945. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order posthumously.

Francis Suttill is honoured on the CWGC Memorial at Groesbeek in the Netherlands and also on the Roll of Honour on the Valençay SOE Memorial in Valençay, in the Indre département of France.

References

  • Sarah Helm (May 2005). A Life in Secrets: The Story of Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE. London: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-72497-1.  

Further reading

  • Henri Noguères - Histoire de la Résistance en France de 1940 à 1945, Robert Laffont, 1976.
  • Hugh Verity - We Landed by Moonlight, (revised edition). Manchester: Crecy Publishing, 2000.
  • Anthony Cave Brown - Bodyguard of Lies: The Extraordinary True Story Behind D-Day , 1975.
  • M. R. D. Foot - S.O.E. in France, Frank Cass Publishers, 2004 (first published London, HMSO 1966). Official history.
  • Stella King - Jacqueline, Arms and Armour, 1989.
  • Sarah Helm - A Life in Secrets: The Story of Vera Atkins and S.O.E's Lost Agents, Little, Brown, 2005.
  • Marcel Ruby - La guerre secrete : les reseaux buckmaster, France Empire, 1991.
  • Paul Guillaume - La Sologne au temps de l'heroisme et de la trahaison,, Imprimerie Nouvelle, Orleans, 1950.

External links

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