Le Chen PL, Captain
Captain Pierre Louis le Chêne MBE joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in London in 1941 and trained as a wireless operator.
Due to his fluent French he was parachuted into France and quickly settled into his role but was advised by his resistance contacts that his identification papers and passport were incorrect which could lead to his arrest so a new, genuine, Monaco Principality ID Card was obtained for him and is displayed here.
He was eventually tracked down in November 1942 and caught whilst in the process of transmitting to London. He was sent to Fresnes prison where he was brutally tortured and interrogated by the notorious Klaus Barbie of the Lyons Gestapo who was also known as “the butcher of Lyon.” Pierre was then transferred to the Gestapo in Paris where his torture continued but he maintained his silence throughout, undoubtedly saving the lives of the many French partisans he would have known.
He was later sent to Germany and was incarcerated in the Mauthausen and Gusen Concentration Camps in Austria where, despite his injuries, he was put to work in a quarry for the rest of the war. When the camp was finally liberated he had to be carried out on a stretcher.
Captain Pierre Le Chêne MBE died in 1979. His widow, Evelyn, has very generously loaned his medals which are, from left to right: the MBE, the French Decores Au Peril De Leur Vie of which he is the only British Officer recipient and the Legion d’Honneur in Officer and Chevalier ranks.
Evelyn describes her husband’s experiences in her books “Watch for Me by Moonlight” and Mauthausen”.
His Morse key and ID Card were recovered by the Americans at the end of the war and were later presented to Captain Le Chêne. They are displayed here.
Pierre is interred in the Military Section of Gravesend Cemetery in Kent where the ‘Memorable Order of the Tin Hats’, an Ex-Servicemen’s Association, has created a branch in his name and memory.
In 1987 Klaus Barbie was sentenced to life imprisonment for his crimes against humanity. Evelyn Le Chêne represented her husband and the United Kingdom at the trial.