Sansom, Odette, 1912-

Odette Sansom was Peter CHURCHILL’s wireless operator and was awarded a George Cross after the war for her bravery. She was French-born but had married a British subject and was living in Somerset with her three little girls when the war broke out. In spring 1942 she answered a call for snapshots of the French coast to help Commando raids and these were sent to the SOE (Special Operations Executive) who recruited her. Her first mission was to set up a circuit at Auxerre but it was only after three unsuccessful attempts to get to France that she was landed by felucca on the Riviera in November 1942. She made contact with Churchill who asked her to stay on as a relief operator but his circuit, Spindle, had been penetrated by the Gestapo so they transferred to Annecy. Sergeant BLEICHER convinced Sansom that he was an Allied sympathizer but London warned her to avoid him. Churchill returned to France in April 1943 and was met by Sansom, who was on his reception committee. The next morning Bleicher arrested them but she pretended that they were married and that Churchill was not an agent but had merely come to France to visit her. She was handed over to the Gestapo and kept in Fresnes Prison for a year. There she was tortured and on one occasion she was branded on the base of the spine with a red hot poker. In May 1944 she was transferred to Ravensbruck concentration camp where she was under sentence of death. However the Commandant of the camp, Suhren, decided to keep her alive because he thought she was a relation of Winston CHURCHILL; thus she survived the war.

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