YEO-THOMAS, F.F.E. (1902-1964) a.k.a 'The White Rabbit', 'Shelley'
Plaque erected in 2010 by English Heritage at Queen Court, 24-28 Queen Square, London, WC1N 3BB, London Borough of Camden
WING COMMANDER F.F.E. YEO-THOMAS GC 1902-1964 Secret Agent codename 'The White Rabbit' lived here
Plaque erected at rear of building on Guilford Street
The secret agent Wing Commander Forest Frederic Edward Yeo-Thomas – codename ‘The White Rabbit’ – undertook three missions into occupied France while his London base was at Queen Court, Bloomsbury. The six-storey block of inter-war flats was commemorated with an English Heritage blue plaque in 2010.
Born in London in 1902, Yeo-Thomas was educated in both England and France, where his family had been based for several generations. He added two years to his age in order to join the Allied armies in the First World War. While fighting with the Poles against the Russians in 1920, he was captured for the first time. Sentenced to death, he only escaped by strangling a guard on the eve of his execution.
Yeo-Thomas joined the RAF when war broke out again in 1939. After completing radar training, he was on one of the last boats out of France before the country fell.
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
In 1942 Yeo-Thomas joined the Special Operations Executive, based in Baker Street and later Dorset Square. Number 5 Queen Court was his home from 1941 to 1946; the Bloomsbury flat, shared with his partner and future wife, Barbara Dean, was his sanctuary throughout the course of his secret missions and, after capture, the place to which he dreamed of returning.
In February 1943 he was dropped by parachute into France, together with André Dewavrin (‘Colonel Passy’), the head of General de Gaulle’s intelligence service, Bureau Central de Renseignements et d'Action. Together, they succeeded in organising the splintered French resistance groups into one unified secret army.
After his second mission to France later that year, Yeo-Thomas made a successful return to London by concealing himself inside a hearse. Discovering that the French resistance fighters severely lacked resources, he reported back directly to Winston Churchill and secured a considerable increase in weapons and supplies.
CAPTURE AND ESCAPE
In February 1944, Yeo-Thomas left Queen Court and parachuted into France for his third and most famous mission. One month later he was betrayed in Paris and captured by the Gestapo. He was subjected to long periods of torture in France before being deported to Buchenwald concentration camp. During this time, he revealed nothing of worth to the enemy.
By a complex and dangerous scheme he avoided execution and survived a number of other Nazi camps before finally escaping and reaching the US lines as the war ended. Following these extraordinary events and his outstanding demonstration of bravery, Yeo-Thomas’s dream of returning home to Bloomsbury – and to Barbara – was realised in May 1945.
For his exceptional courage, Yeo-Thomas was the first Second World War secret agent to be awarded the George Cross. He was also awarded the Military Cross and bar, the Croix de Guerre, and the Polish cross of merit, and was made a commander of the Légion d'honneur. After helping to bring to trial several Nazi war criminals, he returned to work in a Paris fashion house in 1946 and in 1950 joined the Federation of British Industries as their representative in France, a position he held until his death in 1964.