Obituary: General Georges Berge

Georges Roger Pierre Berge, soldier: born Belmont (Gers), France 3 January 1909; married; died Mimizan (Landes), France 15 September 1997.

Georges Berge, Gascon by birth and a French regular army officer by training, was the first agent to be parachuted into France by the British secret service that dealt with sabotage, the Special Operations Executive.

He and four soldiers from SOE's French independent parachute company dropped in plain clothes, at midnight on 15/16 March 1941, from an RAF Whitley bomber based at Stradishall in Suffolk, into a small wood near Vannes in Brittany. Their task was to ambush a bus that carried the navigators of the Luftwaffe's pathfinder force - then busily engaged in spearheading the "Blitz" on British cities - as they travelled from Vannes to their airfield nearby at Meucon.

Mounting this operation at all had raised a small hornet's nest of difficulties with General de Gaulle, whose loyal servants the party were; and had also provided the occasion for a now well-known protest from Sir Charles Portal, Chief of the Air Staff, to Gladwyn Jebb, SOE's executive head. "I think you will agree," Portal had written a month earlier, "that there is a vast difference, in ethics, between the time- honoured operation of the dropping of a spy from the air and this entirely new scheme for dropping what one can only call assassins."

Portal was reminded that the Air Ministry had requested the operation, and climbed down; but "Savanna B", as it was code-named, failed: the bus no longer ran. Berge's party scattered over France - he visited Paris, Nevers and Bordeaux himself - and met up at the end of March at Sables d'Olonne on the west coast. Geoffrey Appleyard, who among his other skills was a canoeing expert, came from the submarine HMS Tigris to carry Berge and one other to eventual harbour in Scotland.

Berge brought back a mass of minor but essential information about daily life and public morale in France, from which much of SOE's early work there derived. The British awarded him a Military Cross, and de Gaulle a Croix de Guerre. He rejoined his independent company, and took it out to Egypt, where he and it joined David Stirling's nascent Special Air Service.

For another operation, he went into Crete by submarine - a Greek one this time, the Triton - with Earl Jellicoe of the Special Boat Section and a few trusted friends, in mid-June 1942. They succeeded in blowing up 16 Luftwaffe aircraft on Heraklion airfield. Unhappily, Berge was captured soon afterwards by the Germans who found him so troublesome a prisoner that they put him away in Colditz castle, the Saxon fortress where they tried to hold the hardest cases. There he again met, the following year, David Stirling, and they saw the war out together.

Berge, a captain on "Savanna", was still a major at the war's end. He resumed his career in the French army, and made a further name for himself in the 1950s in the early stages of developing the combat helicopter. He reached the rank of general de brigade before he retired in 1962 to Mimizan on the south Biscay coast of France, where his father had been postmaster, and was long a stalwart figure at French and Franco-British SAS and SBS reunions. His English wife, Mary, whom he married soon after he returned from "Savanna", survives him.

- M. R. D. Foot

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker