Virginia d'Albert Lake

Newspaper report (unidentified) of Wednesday 24th September 1997, with additions from other sources.

As you probably realised this is a homage to Virginia d'Albert Lake who died at the the age of 87. She was arrested in Châteaudun in 1944 while transporting Allied airmen.

The text is a short resumé of this time of her life and can be summarised as follows:

Virginia D'Albert Lake, a well known member of the resistance movement from America died at home last Saturday.

She was involved with the resistance in 1943 with her husband in the heart of the network "Comete". She sheltered around 60 allied airmen and organised their transport to areas under Allied control (first via Spain then from April 1944 to the forest of Bellande near Cloyes where they were hidden).

She was born in Dayton, Ohio and was eductated at St Petersburg High School and Rollins College. She came to France in 1936. A year later she married the Frenchman Philippe d'Albert Lake. She was arrested in 1944 at a place called Le Plesis in the area of Marboue by German policemen while transporting Allied soldiers (see witness report). She was interrogated by the Gestapo in Châteaudun, Chartres and then Paris, imprisoned in Fresnes and finally deported to Ravensbrück towards the middle of July. When she left this nightmare of a camp in 1945 she weighed only 34 kg.

She is remembered by many for her heroism without which the whole network of the resistance in the area would have fallen apart. When she was arrested she had in her possession a list of all the contact people in the region. This exceptional woman succeeded in destroying this list by tearing it up and swallowing it and was sent to the German prison camp without revealing any of her secrets.

On her marriage she not only took on French nationality* but also took up the ideals of the French resistance. She chose to live in Brittany with her husband later but returned to the Dunois many times where she had numerous friends. In 1994 she returned to the forest of Bellande for the 50th anniversary of the monument [sic] erected in memory of all those who helped Allied airmen to escape the Germans and to return to fight for freedom, often at the cost of their lives.

The funeral of Virginia d'Albert Lake took place yesterday in the Anglican church in Dinard. She was laid to rest in the American part of the local cemetery. Many of the inhabitants of the region of Dunois remember this grand lady with affection.

She was awarded Legion of Honor, the Croix de Guerre, the Liberation Medal of Freedom and the Maltese Cross (from the Veterans of Foreign Wars post, France).

Witness report

One resistance member who wishes to remain anonymous remembers the day on which he was transporting Allied airmen to the forest of Bellande with Virginia d'Albert Lake.

"Virginia arrived the evening before with an American airman and we spent the night at the farm of the Merets after dining with another member of the resistance. The group consisted of about a dozen English and American airmen who were to be transported the following day.

The next day we collected another group of 7 or 8 airmen near Fontenay-sur-Conie so we could transport them all together to Fréteval. I was accompanied by Jean Meret who was driving a covered cart in which the airmen were sitting except for an American who walked in front with Virginia. Everything would have been fine if 3 German policemen hadn't asked the way. It didn't take them long to realise that Virginia and the airman were foreigners and that something funny was going on.

While the Germans were arresting Virginia and the American the other airmen slipped out of the cart and disappeared. Virginia and the American were taken to the German Kommandatur in Châteaudun then transferred to Chartres and finally Paris. Virginia was then sent to the German concentration camp at Ravensbrück and the unfortunate American to a prison camp.

The worst was that I had to break the news to her husband who was waiting at the forest of Bellande."

In his book Mission Marathon Colonel Rémy recalls this episode in the history of the network "Comète" especially the moment when Virginia swallowed the list of contact people in the Dunois in order to avoid the collapse of the whole network."

* A friend of the Lakes, journalist and film-maker Jim Calio, Travel Editor for Santa Barbara Magazine, is editing Virginia's unpublished autobiography and diaries for publication with a university press in the USA. He believes she retained her US citizenship. He would like to hear from anyone who knew her.

Virginia D'Albert-Lake 1909-1992
an appreciation by her friend Pamela Bolter
(wife of Terry Bolter, evader)

Virginia D'Albert-Lake was born on 28th May 1909 in St Petersburg, Florida. A teacher by profession, she went to France in the Summer of 1936 where she met and married Philippe D'Albert-Lake. Both she and her husband were active in the French Resistance and Virginia was personally responsible for saving the lives of 65 Allied airmen shot down over Belgium & France.

Virginia was arrested by the German Feldengendarmerie on 10th June 1944, four days after the invasion. Originally imprisioned in Fresnes she was deported to Germany on 15th August 1944 and was interned in Ravensbrück. She was liberated at Libenau on the Swiss border by Free French Forces on 21st April 1945.

Virginia received many decorations from several governments was awarded the French Légion d'Honneur by the President of France. After tha war she and Philippe opened an antiques business at Cancaval, Brittany. She died on September 20th 1997 and is survived by their son Jean Patrick and grandchildren. Philippe D'Albert-Lake, also born May 28th 1909, died on 10th February 2000.

Christmas 1946/7 Virginia
and her son Jean Patrick

Left: Virginia wearing her Légion d'Honneur,
taken at the Allied Cemetery at St James Normands
in June 1994
Right: Virginia and Philippe in the garden
of their home in 1994
source all photos: Mrs P Bolter

Tom Yankus (Radio Operator: B-17G 42-31565: cr 4 Mar 1944 Saint-Symphorien, Belgium) wrote 15 July 2004

"When I arrived with Jonathan Pearson, our navigator, at Philippe and Virginia d'Albert Lake's apartment in Paris on June 3, 1944, seated in easy chairs were Bill Brayley (Canadian), Denny Peppall (from Yorkshire) and Peter Berry (from Piccadilly). On June 5, 1944 we were  taken to the railroad station in  Paris and then on to Chateaudun, escorted by teenage boys for about 7 miles to the barn at the Rideau's house.

The next morning we were taken to the [Fréteval] Forest, which was June 6, 1944."

[Anyone who is able to provide other images or information about this gallant lady
to use on this page please contact Frank Haslam ]

This page last updated 15 July 2004