Lamplugh and District Heritage Society hosts talk on heroine of the WWII French Resistance

-By Alan Cleaver

Therese Martin French Resistance

A TALK on a heroine of the French Resistance who had links to West Cumbria is to be given to Lamplugh and District Heritage Society on Thursday, April 28.

French Resistance agent Thérèse, whose real name was Olga Baudot de Rouville, risked her life to help British airmen. Among those helped was the late Harry McWilliams, a retired Whitehaven teacher who had served as a gunner in Lancaster and Wellington bombers over Europe during the Second World War.

One of her correspondents was Dr John Heslop of Cockermouth, with whom she went to live, briefly, after the war. It was with Dr Heslop and his wife that she left her case of writings, letters and possessions when she headed for Ireland in 1947.

However, she mysteriously ‘vanished’ and never returned to Cockermouth to retrieve her personal possessions.

These items were subsequently deposited with the local archives in 1980.

Amongst her items was a silk headscarf, printed with a map of France on one side and of North Germany on the other.

Olga corresponded with at least 14 PoWs who she must have met while nursing them in Lille and kept their letters, some of which are addressed to her in her code name.

When Harry McWilliams’ plane was shot down over France in December 1943 he managed to bale out and evade capture with the help of Olga and the French Resistance.

He wrote in his subsequent top secret report to MI9 how “a lady took me to another house… owned by two elderly ladies, Mme Thérèse (who is half-Irish and speaks good English), and Mme Françoise.” Both women were high on the Gestapo’s wanted list and had to go into hiding.

Whitehaven archive assistant Jackie Moore and local historian Joseph Ritson researched Thérèse’s life and eventually found out what happened to her after she left for Ireland.

They will be telling her dramatic story at Lamplugh Village Hall on Thursday, April 28 at 7.30pm.