Our February Last Post was held in chilly conditions with some sun shining. The Gordon’s School Pipes and Drums were originally scheduled to travel to Belgium for remembrance, but as the restrictions in place made that challenging, we were grateful they paraded with us.
We remembered two individuals. One of whom we have briefly remembered before, but with it being the 80th anniversary of his death a detailed account of his life and death were given.
Gunner Thomas Troy, 1st Light Anti-aircraft Regt, Royal Canadian Artillery, died 6th February 1942, aged 40. He was the son of Thomas Franis and Effie Jane Troy, of Woodstock, New Brunswick, Canada, husband of Iva Troy, also of Woodstock and the father of three children. One son and three brothers were also serving in the Canadian Army. His cause of death is not known and he is buried in plot 36, grave E2, Brookwood Military Cemetery.
Lieutenant André Bloch (who served as Lieutenant Alan George Boyd) was a secret agent of F (French) Section, Special Operations Executive (SOE). He was born 19th June 1914 in Paris, the son of French Jews, Edmond and Suzanne Bloch.
A graduate of Lyon university, he worked as a solicitor’s clerk. When war came, he served in the French Army as a liaison officer with the British Expeditionary Force and after the fall of France in 1940, came to England and chose to join the Royal Fusiliers of the British Army, rather than the Free French forces of General de Gaulle. He volunteered for SOE in February 1941 and began his training as an agent at STS 5, Wanborough Manor, not far from Brookwood. He was commissioned into the General List of the British Army and was parachuted into France in September 1941 as radio operator for the AUTOGYRO network. At one time he was the only F Section radio operator working in the Nazi-occupied zone of France and served five different agents.
Bloch is believed to have been arrested in Le Mans by the Germans on or about 13 November 1941. One version of the reason for his capture is that a French neighbour had denounced him as a Jew. It was later reported that he had remained silent despite beatings and torture and though he had been caught with a radio, it is doubtful if the Germans discovered that their prisoner was a British officer. Normally, any such captured agent would have been deported to Germany, but Bloch instead suffered the fate of many of his fellow Frenchmen caught in resistance activity. He was tried by a German military court, sentenced to death and taken to Fort Mont-Valérien in Suresnes in the western suburbs of Paris and it was there, in a clearing close to the fort’s walls, that Bloch was shot on 11 February 1942. Bloch was the first SOE agent to be executed by the Nazis in France. He was aged 27.
Our poem this month was written by a colleague of André Bloch, F Section SOE agent Lieutenant Maurice Pertschuk, Captured in France in April 1943 and eventually sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, Pertschuk wrote this (untitled) poem while in captivity. He was executed on 29th March 1945, shortly before the camp was liberated, but his poems were found and later published in Paris in 1946. In 2003 they were published in English as ‘Leaves of Buchenwald’.
The murmuring pain,
Of the rain,
In my heart, and the music that streams
Through my dreams,
Each note like a petal
That falls on the grass,
In each petal, the tinkle
Oh Lord, let me dream,
Let me float away
From this grimy hell;
Let the sea wind spray,
And the ocean sway
Its soothing swell.
Let me dream of a world of silence,
– Oh let me try! –
With the moon, gently rocking
In a dreaming sky.
Our Standard Bearer was Alan Lopez, and Eddie Jones paraded the Union Flag. There was also Standards from the Royal British Legion Bisley, Knaphill and West End Branch, and the Woking Royal Naval Association paraded by Norman Holden and Keith Tarling respectively.
Mrs Ruth Moore sounded the Last Post and the ceremony was officiated by Paul McCue.
Afterwards refreshments were held at The Trench Experience. Thanks to Paul McCue for text and Mike Hillman for the photographs, used with permission.