Last update: 18 January 2024 - Dernière mise-à-jour: 18 janvier 2024
Gustave (Guy) Biéler, DSO MBE
1904 - 1944
God Save the Queen La Marseillaise
This site is dedicated to the memory of Gustave (Guy) Biéler.
Gustave Daniel Alfred Biéler was born in Beurlay France to Swiss parents and his upbringing and schooling was in Switzerland - he received his degree in Psychology at the University of Geneva. When he was 20 years old, he emigrated to Canada and lived in Montreal. He was a school master for 4 years and then worked for Sun Life of Canada. He married Marguerite (Putsi) Geymonat in 1929 and they had two children, Jean-Louis in 1935 and Jacqueline in 1936.
In 1940, as an officer with the Régiment de Maisonneuve, he left his wife and two young children to sail for Scotland. He volunteered for SOE service in 1942. At 38, he was the oldest in his training class and was called “Grand-dad” by the others. After 4 months of training, Biéler (along with Michael Trotobas and Lt. Staggs) parachuted into France southwest of Paris on 28 November 1942. However, Biéler's landing in France did not go well. He severely injured his back in his fall and was forced to spend many months recuperating. As soon as he was able, he used his convalescence period to recruit agents for his sabotage network which was known as MUSICIAN. The network was to receive arms dropped in by SOE and use them to blow up trains and rail lines and disrupt German troop movements. He eventually oversaw the operation of 25 separate armed teams which systematically blew up rail lines and switching boxes and destroyed and derailed German troop trains in northern France.
Biéler was a warm and affable man, highly regarded by his French co-workers. In January 1944, the Germans closed in on Biéler and his radio operator, Yolande Beekman, and arrested them in a small café in Saint-Quentin which is in northern France.
For months Biéler was tortured but the Gestapo learned nothing – except respect for his courage and dignity. When he walked to his death in September he was accompanied by an SS Guard of honor. Instead of being gassed or hanged, he was shot – the only known case of an officer in these circumstances by a firing squad.
In the S.O.E. files for Guy Biéler from the UK Archives, there is much material and there is much meaningful material. There are two documents in particular that draw such emotion and pride in what Guy Biéler represented in both valour, leadership and courage:
- The first is a (somewhat lengthy but very informative) letter from Buckmaster to Guy's wife Marguerite informing her of the sad news:
- The second document is a letter from Marguerite on Remembrance Day 1942 to Guy just days before he left for his mission - one has to absolutely feel for Marguerite (note that she signed it as Guy knew her ... "Putsi") as she knows what Guy is undertaking is very important for the Allied cause but reminds him that his family needs him as well. It takes a lot of resolve and courage for her to have written that letter! Of all that is in Guy Biéler's file, that one touched me the most by far!
« Rue du Commandant Guy Biéler » - Saint-Quentin, France
Plaque CFSMI/FCERM Kingston – Parc Biéler Park
Ceremony with Biéler Family held in 2014
Sources of information and photos:
We can find numerous publications with entries which describe the distinguished service and ultimate sacrifice by Guy Biéler:
- S.O.E. file on Guy Biéler at the UK's National Archives;
- Thomas Höppe (from Germany) for his insights;
- "Out of Night and Fog: The Story of Major Guy BIELER Special Operations Executive" by Jacqueline Biéler - (2008 - ISBN 978-1-896979-55-7);
- Guy Biéler’s daughter Jacqueline (phone conversation in 2019 and numerous email exchanges since!);
- “Canadians Behind Enemy Lines” by Roy MacLaren - (1981 - ISBN 0-7748-0147-6) - in particular,
pages 27 to 36;
- "Le meilleur des hommes - L'histoire de Guy Biéler, le plus grand espion canadien" by Guy Gendron - (2018 - ISBN 978-2-7644-3687-5);
- "Unsung Courage - 20 Stories of Canadian Valour and Sacrifice" by Arthur Bishop (2001 - ISBN 0-00-200076-8);
- "Canadian Spies" by Tom Douglas - (2003 - ISBN 1-55153-966-7);
- "SOE in France 1941-1945 - An Official Account of the Strategic Operations Executive's 'British Circuits' in France" by Major Robert
Bourne-Patterson - (2016 - ISBN 978-1-47388-203-4);
- The booklet "Uncommon Courage"
- available online from Veterans Affairs (Canada - 1985 - ISBN 0-662-54053-0). In fact, recognition of his heroism is covered on this webpage in the online version of the booklet. The pages from the printed booklet are shown below - simply click on one to view a readable version.
- Commemorative plaque in the Aisne region of France for his
courage and dedication.
Here is an excerpt from issue #49 of "After the Battle" on both Guy Biéler and Michael Trotobas:
- Wikipedia profile on Guy Biéler;
- Book titled "Scarlet to Green by R.S. Elliot - (1981 - ISBN 096905470X);
- Article by the The Whig Standard on Guy Biéler;
- National Post article regarding Guy Biéler;
- Segment from the Secret Liberators from YouTube which includes mention of Guy Biéler at about 8min40sec mark;
- Segment from the Secret Liberators from YouTube which includes mention of Guy Biéler at about 0min0sec mark;
- Legion Magazine feature on the story of Guy Biéler.
In 1966, it was disclosed by the British authorities that the numerous derailments in that area of northern France were the work of two SOE resistance networks: FARMER
operating under its British-born leader Michael Trotobas, codenamed "Michel", and MUSICIAN led by Gustave Biéler, codenamed "Guy". Both had been dropped in France in November
1942, Michel settling in Lille and Guy further south at Saint-Quentin. As their area of operations straddled the important supply routes to the coast of northwestern France, the
intended invasion area, railways were to be their special targets. FARMER achieved its first successful derailment in February 1943 when forty railway trucks were destroyed on the
Lens-Béthune line which was closed for two days. By mid-summer the network was causing up to twenty derailments a week while the MUSICIAN group were cutting the Lille-Saint-Quentin line about once a fortnight, one of Guy's favourite forms of sabotage being the supply of abrasive grease to his railwaymen friends.
More than a thorn in the side of the Germans, Michael Trotobas was killed during a dawn raid on his lodging on November 28 - the street in Lille now being renamed "Rue du Capitaine Michel". Although more arrests followed, FARMER managed to remain intact. In mid-January 1944 Gustave Biéler was arrested (he was later executed at Flossenbürg) and the MUSICIAN network shattered. FARMER was able to carry on with the sabotage operations right up to D-Day.
Execution of Guy Biéler – Concentration Camp in Flossenbürg, Bavaria (photo from Flossenbürg Visitor Center)
Original SS Pencil from the WW2 Flossenbürg Concentration Camp
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