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Commitment as a legacy

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Explore our history and discover the strong bond uniting us with our heroes of the past.
Notre héritage
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Our history started during the fight for the liberation of France, at the heart of the Second World War.

On June 18, 1940, General de Gaulle called upon the French people to refused to accept the capitulation. In London, volunteers joined him to continue the fight. Some of them opted for clandestinity, thus risking their lives. A handful of them were made ‘Compagnons de la Libération’.

We cultivate the legacy of these outstanding women and men and are proud of our values: loyalty, demandingness, discretion and adaptability.

Deep inside us, we carry the experience of clandestine activities.

Bernard Emié,

the Director General

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The founding act
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On July 1, 1940, General de Gaulle tasked André Dewavrin with creating the intelligence service of Free France. Its objective: collect reliable intelligence on France’s situation.

A young Polytechnique graduate aged 29, André Dewavrin, had no experience in the field of intelligence but was a brilliant organizer. Under the alias ‘Passy’, he set up an original structure in charge of collecting and analysing intelligence but also of conducting clandestine actions against the occupying forces. This integrated model, unique in the world, is still today that of the DGSE.

photo d'André Dewarin - alias Passy
André Dewavrin, alias Passy.
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The BCRA
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In 1942, Free France’s intelligence service adopted the name Central Bureau for Intelligence and Action (BCRA). Today, the DGSE is heir to the BCRA.

The BCRA agents carried out many missions in the occupied territory: sabotage, escapes, airdrops, creation and development of Resistance networks. They communicated with London through encrypted radio links, and always clandestinely.

These operations allowed to achieve the unification of all the French Resistance movements under the authority of General de Gaulle. The intelligence collected by the BCRA also contributed to ensure the success of the military operations conducted by the Allies. Thus, the BCRA played a key role that allowed France to sit at the table of victors.

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A few symbolic operations
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In early 1943, General de Gaulle tried to assert his authority in the domestic Resistance movement.

Jean Moulin, the General’s representative in Lyon, had already succeeded in uniting the Resistance movements in the southern zone, while in the northern zone, everything remained to be done.

General de Gaulle decided to send Colonel Passy (aka Arquebuse), the head of the BCRA, and Pierre Brossolette (aka Brumaire), his number two, to Paris. In a few weeks’ time, in clandestinity, they managed to unite the five main Resistance movements in the northern zone, including the communists, and to ensure their coordination under the command of a single leader, General de Gaulle.

Mission Arquebuse-Brumaire made the unification of the different movements within the National Resistance Council (NRC) possible. The latter met, for the first time, on May 27, 1943. From then on, the Allies could no longer have any doubt about General de Gaulle’s legitimacy.

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In November 1943, the staff of General Eisenhower conceived a plan to allow the Allies to have relays on the ground when the landings take place.

This plan rested on the ability of the BCRA intelligence officers, trained by the Americans and the British, to infiltrate the occupied territory.

From February 1944, 108 French agents were dropped in tandem (one observer and one radio operator) between the far end of Brittany and the French-Belgian border: only four of them were over 30 and two of them were women.

These tandems were tasked with blending in among the population and to provide the Allies with intelligence collected on the enemy’s activities (German presence, locations of weapon stockpiles and fuel depots).

The intelligence collected thanks to the Sussex Plan turned out to be determining on D-Day.

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A source of inspiration
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The Order of the Liberation was created on November 16, 1940. General de Gaulle meant to reward all the women and men, who had taken so many risks to liberate France. Those who received this distinction are called the ‘Compagnons de la Libération’: there were only 1,038 of them.

174 ‘Compagnons de la Libération’ served in the French intelligence services, first and foremost in the BCRA. Among them, 60 died for France during the Second World War.

If we are still an intelligence and action service today, this is thanks to this affiliation. We are heirs to these agents with an extraordinary destiny.

Discover the profile of five of them.

Extraordinary destinies

Loyauté - François Delimal
François Delimal
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He was a young boxing champion and a student at the ‘École libre des sciences politiques’ when he joined the Resistance in 1942 at the age of 20. He was in charge of clandestine airdrops for the BCRA. Arrested by the Gestapo, he committed suicide in March 1944 by swallowing a cya-nide capsule.
 

Exigence - Pierre Brossolette
Pierre Brossolette
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He was a journalist and a politician as well as the voice of Free France and the number two of the BCRA, the forerunner of the DGSE. He was arrested while carrying out a vitally important mission for the future of the Resistance. Tortured, he threw himself out of a window on March 22, 1944 during interrogation.

Discrétion - Laure Diebold
Laure Diebold
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She was a shorthand typist and perfectly fluent in French and German. She joined a smuggling organization and then an intelligence collection network. She then worked with Jean Moulin before being arrested and deported.

 

Adaptabilité - Colonel Dewavrin
André Dewavrin
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As soon as he arrived in London, General de Gaulle asked this Polytechnique graduate to create the intelligence service of Free France from scratch. At his instigation, the BCRA became a real special service, the unique model of which still persists through the DGSE.

 

Daniel Cordier
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He was 19 when he went to London and joined the BCRA. He was parachuted in 1942 in France and became Jean Moulin’s secretary. Then, he became the chief of staff of Colonel Passy, the director of the DGER. He died in November 2020 and was the last ‘Compagnon de la Libération’, who had been a BCRA member.

By your side, among you, although you do not always know it, the men of the underground fight, struggle and die for the liberation […]. Pay a tribute to them, French people! They are the unseen workers for glory!

Pierre Brossolette,

the number two of the BCRA

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The symbols of our filiation
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To materialize this filiation between the BCRA and the DGSE, our military personnel was given, on September 17, 2018, by the minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, the fourragère of the Order of the Liberation.

Hubert Germain, the last Companion of the Liberation, member of the BCRA, attended this ceremony in the main courtyard of the Hôtel des Invalides. This was an intense moment for all DGSE members.

Handshake between the minister of Armed Forces, Florence Parly, and Hubert Germain.

 

The fourragère of the Order of the Liberation is made of a lanyard with interwoven green and black threads. These colours represent the mourning of the oppressed country and the hope of the Motherland.

Besides, when joining the DGSE, each staff member, whether civilian or military, receives an insignia of affiliation with the Cross of Lorraine, on which the first part of the motto of the Order of the Liberation is written: Patriam Servando (By serving the Motherland).

Fourragère et insigne de filiation de la DGSE
The fourragère of the Order of the Liberation (on the left) and the insignia of affiliation (on the right).
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Being a DGSE member is not without significance
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It is a commitment implying a sense of renunciation and sometimes sacrifices.

On November 8, 2019, in order to honour the memory of the women and men, who have lost their lives on duty, the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, inaugurated our monument to the dead.

This monument pays tribute to the heroes, who, since the creation of the secret services of Free France until now, have died for France in the utmost secrecy. Each of them is represented by a cornflower, the symbol of the combatants, who fell for our country. This French flower grew in the mud of the trenches of the First World War. A flower of sacrifice, it is a flower of hope too.

Monument aux morts et bleuet
Inauguration of the monument to the dead by the President of the Republic (on the left) and cornflowers adorning the monument (on the right)