Roger Landes LdH CdeG MC & Bar (16 December 1916 – 16 July 2008) was an agent and radio operator in the Special Operations Executive (SOE), F section. Heading and arming Resistance groups, he played an important role in the liberation in the Bordeaux region, and ended the war in Force 136.
Roger was born in Paris the second son (of three) to Barnet Landes, of Polish-Jewish descent, and a Russian mother - Barnet's grandfather had fled Russian Poland to avoid the pogroms and Imperial conscription, setting up a jewellery business in Hatton Garden before settling in Paris. Barnet's children had then fought for Britain in the First World War. Barnet spoke poor English and so preferred to live in Paris and run a jewellery business there. It was in Paris that Roger was born and educated, and he remained there with one of his two brothers when his parents' jewellery business collapsed in the Great Depression and they moved to London. Roger graduated in architecture at the École des Beaux Arts before also moving to London after the Munich Crisis, where he joined London County Council as a quantity surveyor.
Roger was conscripted into the Royal Corps of Signals in March 1941 and, speaking better French than English and already knowing Morse code, he was soon recruited into SOE (F section) at the request of Lewis Gielgud and Maurice Buckmaster. His first mission, with his codename as Aristide, was as radio operator to the SCIENTIST network under Claude de Baissac (David). He was parachuted into France with Gilbert Norman on the night of 31 October 1942. After de Baissac's return to England on 16/17 August, Landes succeeded him as the network's head. Recalled to London, he left on the night of 1 November 1943, crossing the Pyrénées, being held for a time in Spain and finally reaching Gibraltar and then England, landing on 15 January 1944 by plane near Swindon.
His second mission began on 1/2 March 1944 with an aborted attempt to parachute him back into France, in Gascony this time, postponed to the night of 2/3 March 1944. The second attempt was successful, and he was accompanied by Allyre Sirois. As the head of the ACTOR network, he rebuilt it from the remains of the SCIENTIST network and equipped and headed several Resistance groups up until the liberation of Bordeaux. On the city's liberation on 17 September 1944, he was presented to Général de Gaulle, who said to him "You're English? Your place is not here" and asked him to leave the country within 2 days. Roger Landes left Bordeaux, but stayed for a time in Paris, returning to England on 10 October, where he was looked after.
In 1945, he volunteered to join Force 136 in the Far East. In March he was sent to Colombo, and in May he and 15 commandos were parachuted into the Malayan jungle near the Thailand frontier. His actions as part of this special unit brought him a bar on his Military Cross.
- UK : Military Cross for his first period in France (bar later awarded for his second period in France)
- France : Knight (1950) then officer (1992) of the Légion d'honneur, Croix de Guerre 1939-1945 (1945)
Marriage and issue
His first wife was Ginette Corbin, daughter of Charles Corbin (a French agent of the Scientist network, to whom André Grandclément revealed that he intended to betray the arms caches to the Gestapo), and they had one son. She died in 1983 (obituary - Times, 12 March 1983), and Landes married Margaret Laing in 1990, who survived him.
- Michael Richard Daniell Foot, SOE in France. An account of the Work of the British Special Operations Executive in France, 1940-1944, London, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1966, 1968 ; Whitehall History Publishing, in association with Frank Cass, 2004.
- E. H. Cookridge, Missions spéciales, translated from the English by Paule Ravenel, Librairie Arthème Fayard, 1966. 2nd part :Roger Landes et la libération de Bordeaux.
- (in French) Guy Penaud, Histoire secrète de la Résistance dans le Sud-Ouest, Éditions Sud Ouest, 1993.
- (in French) Raymond Ruffin, Ces Chefs de Maquis qui gênaient, Presses de la Cité, 1980. See second part, Ceux qu'on jugeait indésirables, ch. VIII à XI Roger Landes en Aquitaine.
- "Obituary - Roger Landes". The Times. 17 July 2008. Retrieved 23 July 2008.
- Foot, MRD (14 August 2008). "Obituary - Roger Landes". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 August 2008.
- Special Forces roll of honour
- Biography of Roger Landes at Nigel Perrin's site