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Shadows in the Fog: The True Story of Major Suttill and the Prosper French Resistance Network Hardcover – 3 Nov 2014

4.7 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press (3 Nov. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0750955910
  • ISBN-13: 978-0750955911
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.8 x 23.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 139,294 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Francis J. Suttill wrote the Special Operations Executive's "Prosper Disaster" of 1943 with Prof MRD Foot, Intelligence, and National Security. He has interviewed contemporary witnesses and photographed the locations of the drama.


Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The fall of Prosper’s PHYSICIAN network in the summer of 1943 was the low point for the Special Operations Executive and for the efforts to arm and train the French Resistance in anticipation of the Allied landings. Rumours have abounded ever since as to exactly the chain of events and who told what to whom in the first few hectic days; books have been written and reputations staked on the flimsiest of evidence. Here, though, is the definitive history, painstakingly unearthed by Prosper’s son and namesake, Francis Suttill, in a history that is at once poignant, incisive, clear-sighted and compassionate. We cannot ever truly know the personal courage of the men and women who volunteered to serve behind enemy lines, but we owe them the best truth we can muster and this is surely it. A must-read for anyone with an interest in the history of the SOE and an enthralling, nail-biting introduction for those who come new to the field.
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This is a very useful addition to the research around SOE and resistance in France. Mr Suttill has researched extensively the Physician network and others connected, to give as complete a picture as we are likely ever to get of the British activated resistance around Paris in 1943. There is an understandable strand through the work of establishing, as far as possible, the facts related to the penetration and demise of his father's circuit. Mr Suttill is seeking to protect the memory of his father and this he convincingly does. There are elements of interpretation of the evidence and with the gaps in documentary evidence and imperfect communications of the time this is necessary. Mr Suttill convinces me that the failure of the circuit was not part of any deception plan (of the enemy or inter-allied). I remain to be convinced that Dansey did not have a hand in assisting the penetration via Dericourt, Bodington et al. There is evidence of something very suspect there. We will probably never [be allowed to] find this out. Gilbert Norman clearly breaks down under interrogation, but fundamental breaches of security and circumstances allowed the Germans to roll the network up in a matter of weeks, at great cost. Above all we are left with the Appendix listing those members of the circuits arrested, deported and murdered by the Germans. There is a harrowing picture of a resister who returned from the camps. For the French at the time, 'il faut choisir'. Many chose to resist and paid with their lives. We should never forget these brave people.
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It must be extremely perplexing to be brought up in the belief that your father was a war hero only to discover later that this may not have been as straightforward as first indicated.
Author Francis J Suttill is the son of Major Francis Suttill, aka Prosper, who was an agent for SOE and who organised a resistance circuit (codenamed Physician) in occupied France during WW2. Based in Paris, this circuit was always in imminent danger of discovery by the Gestapo and so it proved. Major Suttill was betrayed, arrested and in due course executed. So far the open and shut case.
The problem was that while in the hands of the Gestapo, Major Suttill appears, either to save his own skin or by naivety, to have been complicit in naming other persons involved in the circuit, bringing catastrophe to the rest of its members.
Having heard of these allegations, the author set out to discover the truth of what really happened that summer of 1943.
So did he manage it?
Well, whether that was ever going to be possible is always going to be debatable. What cannot be disputed is the lengths the author went to uncover every scrap of evidence he could lay his hands on and if anything the text suffers from the overwhelming amount of information he provides. I'm not sure that documenting the content and location of every single parachutage to the Physician resisters adds much to the narrative though it did reinforce the conclusion that someone was giving the Germans good information on where it was all hidden.
Given the obvious inbuilt desire to exculpate his father's memory, the author has produced a surprisingly objective end product.
No one will ever know for certain the whole truth since all the major players are long gone.
But one thing is for sure: Major Suttill was an extremely brave man and, irrespective of foggy shadows, his author son should be proud of him.
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A good account of the Prosper network and Major Suttill's part in the nefarious groups involved. However, many questions still left unanswered in the complex history of SOE and its French operations:treachery was rife; various factions were fighting each other as well as the Germans and a degree of incompetence on behalf of the HQ staff in Baker Street cost many lives in France and the Low Countries. Why was Dericourt allowed to continue when it was obvious that he was a double agent and why was a senior post given to a non- British national working alongside Buckmaster with full access to all operations. Shadows in the Fog does go some way to answer these questions but, as time goes by,memories fade, buried files gather dust and the truth will remain hidden for many years to come.
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I did want to read this book because, starting with M. R. D. Foot's book on S.O.E., I have taken a huge interest in Prosper and the Physician Circuit and all the people who tragically were arrested and died because of some mistaken idea, by some of our agents, that the nazis could be trusted to behave like gentlemen. I'm still really no wiser as to who did the actual betraying, it had to be one of the top three or even all of them but this book doesn't really clear this mystery up and indeed I was not expecting it to after all these years. We do know that Henri Dericourt had a lot to answer and I have also seen the finger pointed at Nicholas Bodington in other books on the subject. My overall opinion is that I don't think we can truly judge people who had no prior in-depth training in the murky world of espionage and secrecy. S.O.E. was hurriedly thrown together after the war had started and just as hurriedly disposed of once the war had ended. They were meant to "set Europe ablaze" rather than engage in any serious spying. I think all were heroic for volunteering and many did an excellent job. It's just sad that this was one of the earlier circuits which mushroomed out of control and that more than anything led to its downfall after all the Abwehr were not stupid.
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