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Commitment as a legacy

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Explore our history and discover the strong bond that unites us with yesterday’s heroes.
Notre héritage
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Our history started in 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 refuse capitulation. In London, volunteers joined him to continue the fight. Some of them opted for clandestinity, risking their lives. A handful of them will be made Companions of Liberation.

We cultivate the legacy of these outstanding men and women. We are proud of the values they passed on to us: 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 asked André Dewavrin to create the intelligence service of Free France.

Purpose: hold reliable intelligence obtained in occupied territory. A young Polytechnique graduate aged 29, Colonel Passy André Dewarin, had no experience in intelligence, but he was a great organizer. Under the pseudonym of Colonel Passy, he set up an unprecedented structure, in charge of collecting and analyzing intelligence, but also of conducting covert actions against the occupant. This integrated model, unique in the world, is still today that of the DGSE.

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André Dewavrin, also known as «Colonel Passy».
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The Central Bureau for Intelligence and Action (BCRA)
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In 1942, the intelligence service of Free France adopted the name of Central Bureau for Intelligence and Action (BCRA). Today, the DGSE is heir to the BCRA.

The BCRA agents carried out many missions on the occupied territory: radio link, encryption, sabotage, escape, airdrops. Always acting underground.

These actions allowed the unification of all the French Resistance movements, under the authority of General de Gaulle.

The intelligence obtained by the BCRA also contributed to the success of the military operations conducted by the Allies. This decisive role earned France to be included in the victory.

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A few symbolic operations
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In early 1943, le General de Gaulle had to prove the allies that he had the support of the internal Resistance.

Jean Moulin, the General’s representative in Lyon, had already managed to bring together the Resistance movements in the southern zone, whereas in the northern zone, everything remained to be done.

General de Gaulle decided to send to Paris Colonel Passy (also known as Arquebuse), the head of the BCRA, and Pierre Brossolette (also known as Brumaire), its number two. In a few weeks, while operating clandestinely, they managed to unify the five main resistance movements of the northern zone, including the communists, and to coordinate them under the command of one leader, General de Gaulle.

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

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In November 1943, the staff of General Eisenhower thought of an operation to allow the Allies to have relays on the ground, at the time of landing.

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

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

The mission of these tandems was to blend in among the population and to provide the Allies with intelligence on the activities of the enemy (presence of the Germans, location of weapons stockpiles and fuel depots).

The intelligence obtained thanks to the Sussex plan turned out to be decisive on the 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 thus wished to reward the men and women who had taken so many risks to liberate France. Those who received this award were called the Companions of the Liberation : there were only 1,038 of them.

With more than 130 Companions of the Liberation, the BCRA was the unit containing the highest number of them. Among them, 50 died for France during the Second World War.

If today we are still an intelligence and action service, based on an integrated organization, this is thanks to the intuition of these men and women from the BCRA. Today, we are the 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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Young boxing champion studying in Sciences Po, he joined the Resistance in 1942, at the age of 20. He was in charge of clandestine airdrops for the BCRA. He got arrested by the Gestapo and committed suicide by cyanide, on March 21, 1944, in order not to give away secrets. He epitomized loyalty.

Exigence - Pierre Brossolette
Pierre Brossolette
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He was a journalist and a politician; he was also the voice of Free France and the number two of the BCRA. During a vital mission for the future of the Resistance, he got arrested. He was inflicted torture and threw himself out of a window, during interrogation. He epitomized demandingness.

Discrétion - Laure Diebold
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She was a shorthand typist and spoke fluent French and German. She managed to obtain intelligence she encrypted and forwarded to London. She worked with Daniel Cordier and Jean Moulin before she got arrested and sent to a concentration camp. She epitomized discretion.

Adaptabilité - Colonel Dewavrin
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Upon his arrival in London, he was asked by General De Gaulle to create the intelligence service of Free France. At his instigation, the BCRA really became an integrated special service. He epitomized adaptability.

Daniel Cordier
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He was only 19 when he went to London in June 1940. He was parachuted in France in 1942 and he became the secretary of Jean Moulin. Then, he became the head of Colonel Passy’s cabinet. Daniel Cordier, who passed away on November 20, 2020 was the last Companion of the liberation member of the BCRA. He is an example to us all.

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 homeland.

And this is not the only mark of our legacy. Today, when joining the DGSE, each member, whether civilian or military, receives a filiation insignia with the cross of Lorraine, on which is written the motto of the Order of the Liberation : Patriam servando, victoriam tulit (By serving the Homeland, he won the victory). 

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The fourragère on the left and the filiation insignia on the right.
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Belonging to the DGSE means so much
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It is a commitment implying renunciations and sometimes sacrifices.

To honour the memory of these women and men, who have lost their lives on duty, the French president of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, inaugurated the new monument to the dead of the DGSE, on November 8, 2019.

This monument pays tribute to the heroes who, since the creation of the secret services of Free France and until today, have died for France in the utmost secrecy. Each of them is represented by a cornflower, symbolizing the soldiers who died for our country. This French flower grew in the mud of the trenches of the First World War. This flower of sacrifice also represents hope.

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)