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Date of Auction: 22nd September 2006

Sold for £2,100

Estimate: £1,800 - £2,200

A family group to fellow resistants:

The King’s Medal for Courage group of five awarded to 2nd Lieutenant Thorkild Hansen, a Danish national who served in Special Operations Executive’s ‘DF’ escape section and in inter-related M.I. 9 operations

Danish Medal for Participation in the War 1940-45,
in its red A. Michelsen, Copenhagen card box of issue; Great Britain, King’s Medal for Courage in the Cause of Freedom, unnamed as issued, in its Royal Mint case of issue; French Legion of Honour, Chevalier’s breast badge, silver, gilt and enamel, in its case of issue; French Croix de Guerre 1939, with gilt star, in red leather presentation case; French Resistance Medal 1939-45, in a Diets, Paris case of issue, extremely fine

The O.B.E. pair awarded to Mrs. Marguerite Holst, afterwards Mrs. Hansen, who was decorated for her services in Special Operations Executive’s ‘DF’ escape section and inter-related M.I. 9 operations, but more particularly for her role in the famous “Garrow-Pat O’Leary” escape line

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, O.B.E. (Civil) Member’s 2nd type breast badge, on Lady’s riband bow; French Croix de Guerre 1939-1940, with bronze oakleaf, extremely fine (7) £1800-2200


Thorkild Hansen was born in Copenhagen in January 1900 and was working in France at the time of the outbreak of hostilities. Accompanying research and comparison of the below listed recommendations would seem to suggest that he first came into contact with his future wife - then Mrs. Marguerite Holst - in Marseilles as early as 1940, and that his subsequent wartime career followed a very similar course, namely employment by S.O.E. and M.I. 9 for the smooth-running of escape lines from France to Spain. The recommendations for his awards best summarise these activities:

King’s Medal for Courage in the Cause of Freedom: the original recommendation states:

‘This Danish civilian volunteered for the French Army at the outbreak of war. Taken prisoner, he escaped from a German prison camp in September 1940 and made his way to unoccupied France. He took part from the start in the work of a small resistance group in Marseilles but, considering this work to be insufficiently effective, Hansen went in September 1942 to Lisbon and made contact with a secret organisation. Here he was entrusted with the foundation of an organisation in France to arrange message lines from Belgium to Portugal, escape routes, dissemination of propaganda and other material, and the financing of circuits. This organisation subsequently developed into one of the biggest circuits in France. It was linked with a Spanish escape route responsible for the successful exfiltration from France of many Allied personnel. This work involved great difficulties and dangerous travelling with compromising material such as W./T. sets, forged papers for agents, and subversive propaganda. It was particularly hazardous for Hansen personally when his co-organiser disappeared in Paris. Although in poor health, he crossed the Pyrenees in July 1944 to report to his chief in Madrid. He then went back to France to continue his work behind enemy lines and was finally overrun by the advance of the liberating Allies.’

French Legion of Honour: an official decree of 6 May 1952 states:

‘A Danish citizen, Mr. Hansen, who is very francophile, has throughout the occupation given the strongest proof of his devotion to France. It is with desperate energy that he has, in such circumstances, fought the occupant, as much through his personal action than by the important organisation that he has set up on territory which was linked with the English Special Forces. Because of his bravery and his coolness, he has prevented the arrest of several French agents.’

French Croix de Guerre: an official decree of 10 November 1945 states:

‘The organiser of a network he established as early as April 1941, Hansen was in charge of the distribution of material and of the safe entry and evacuation of the personnel. The regional chief from Paris having disappeared in March 1944, he made sure to destroy all the elements that would have permitted the enemy to find out about the organisation. In June 1944, he crossed the Pyrenees in order to resume contact with H.Q., and then returned to France. His network then operated perfectly until Liberation Day.’

Sold with a quantity of original documentation, including what would appear to be Hansen’s account of his early days in the French Army in 1940, handwritten entries in French language in a notebook (with later typescript English translation); four official movement orders / letters for the period March-April 1945, one in the name of ‘2/Lt. T. Hansen’ from the Special Forces H.Q., Montagu Mansions, London, dated 14 April 1945; a printed form with typed citation for his French Croix de Guerre, dated at Paris, 26 February 1946; the certificate of award for his Danish Medal for Participation in the War 1940-45, dated 17 September 1947; and a signed copy of the citation for his Legion of Honour, dated 6 May 1952.

Mrs. Marguerite Holst (afterwards Mrs. Hansen) was English by birth (nee Addy), known to her friends as “Madge” and married her first husband pre-war. Having already witnessed the events of the Spanish Civil War due to his work for the International Refugee Commission, she quickly found herself embroiled in the clandestine world of S.O.E. operations after they made their way to Marseilles in 1940 and he was recruited into S.O.E. by a fellow Scandinavian for work in the ‘DF’ escape section: M. R. D. Foot’s S.O.E. in France describes him as a ‘quaker shipbroker’ who ‘behind his ponderous appearance kept a swift intellect, a painstaking character, and a strong dislike of the nazis.’ For her own part, as detailed in the following recommendation for her O.B.E., Mrs. Holst played a vital role in the setting up of the famous “Garrow-Pat O’Leary” escape line, largely under the auspices of M.I. 9:

Order of the British Empire (Honorary O.B.E.): the original recommendation states:

‘Mrs. Holst was in Paris, where her Norwegian husband [Wilhelm Holst] was engaged on relief work, when the Germans broke through in 1940, and subsequently moved from there to Marseilles. Here she got in touch with Captain Garrow, who had organised the first British escape route from France to Spain. At this time Garrow was living in Marseilles and it was necessary for his work that he should avoid contact with the French police. In this he was greatly helped by Mrs. Holst, who sheltered him and helped financially. Thanks to various other contacts of Mrs. Holst, Garrow was able to expand his organisation considerably. Mrs. Holst also assisted Lieutenant-Commander O’Leary on his arrival in France to work with Garrow. On the latter’s arrest, Mrs. Holst maintained contact with him in prison and sent his food. In the Spring of 1941, Mrs. Holst visited Lisbon with her husband and brought important information from the organisation. On subsequent trips, travelling as a Norwegian subject, she was obliged to fly by German civil aircraft, carrying information sewn in the lining of her coat. During one of her visits to Lisbon, Mrs. Holst was taught the use of secret inks for communication by post, and by this method continued to send from France regular despatches regarding the escape organisation. Demonstrating great coolness and bravery in conducting her dangerous work, Mrs. Holst never hesitated to undertake any task assigned to her. An English woman operating in enemy-occupied territory, she fully understood what would be the penalty if she was discovered. It was largely thanks to her that the original “Garrow-O’Leary” organisation was able to get established in Southern France, whereby several hundred escapers from Dunkirk days were enabled to return to the United Kingdom.’

Lieutenant-Commander Pat O’Leary was, of course, the alias of Dr. Albert-Marie Guerisse, the famous winner of the G.C. and a D.S.O., and by virtue of the fact that Mrs. Holst remained in contact with Captain Ian Garrow, D.S.O., while he was incarcerated at Fort Meauzac, it seems likely she had some hand in the planning of his escape from that place in early December 1942, an escape master-minded by Guerisse. Of her subsequent work in ferrying important messages to and from Lisbon as a passenger on German civil aircraft - when ‘she fully understood what would be the penalty if she was discovered’ - Mrs. Holst later told her M.I. 9 boss, Donald Darling, that it was best “to take the War into the enemy’s camp.” Darling would also recall in correspondence with Ron Penhall in the 1970s that she was as ‘calm as a cucumber. One day she carried so much stuff she had to rip open her fur coat in my bedroom and then sew it all up again.’

Marrying Thorkild Hansen soon after the War, on the annulment of her first marriage, she died in February 1970.

Sold with a quantity of original or contemporary documentation relating to Mrs. Holst, including an old typed copy of her account of her experiences at Ucles in the Spanish Civil War, dated 5 July 1939; a letter of thanks from the British Section for Assisting the Evasion of Allied Personnel, dated at Paris, 30 November 1945, and a similar letter from the Dutch General Staff, ‘for bravery shown during the German occupation and having assisted “Pierre” in the establishment of an Allied escape line’, this dated at The Hague, 1 March 1945; her original O.B.E. warrant, dated 23 January 1946; an invitation to a reception to mark the visit of the King and Queen of Denmark to Paris, dated 29 November 1950, in the name of ‘Madame Thorkild Hansen’; and correspondence between Ron Penhall and her old M.I. 9 boss, Donald Darling, dated August-December 1973.

Provenance: Ex Sotheby’s 23 June 1971 (Lot 505).