Last update: 9 June 2020 - Dernière mise-à-jour: 9 juin 2020
1914 - 1943
This site is dedicated to the memory of Michael Trotobas.
Michael (Alfred) Trotobas was born on May 20th 1914 in North Place, Brighton, to a French father and Irish mother.
Michael Trotobas was recruited by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in the UK. On 6th September 1941, Trotobas and Victor Gerson were dropped by parachute into
occupied France. After being met by SOE's advance party in Chateauroux he toured France to help assess the possibility of organizing subversive networks in the country.
On his return to London he suggested to the SOE that he should build a network in the Lille area. On 28th November, 1942, Trotobas and Gustave
Biéler, were dropped in northern France. Over the next few months Trotobas established the Farmer Network.
In February, 1943, Trotobas and his group achieved its first successful train derailment. Forty trucks were badly damaged and the Lens-Bethune line was closed for two days.
On 27th June he was back in Lille and leading a group of twenty men he attacked the locomotive works at Fives, one of the largest and most important in France. During
operation four million litres of oil were destroyed and twenty-two transformers damaged and the works were out of action for two months.
In October the Farmer Network caused four derailments in five days. The following month he also successfully sabotaged several factories in Lille. On 28th November,
the Gestapo managed to arrest one of the leaders of the group. After being tortured he gave the address where Trotobas was living. That night the flat was raided and
during the gun battle that followed Michael Trotobas was killed.
Sources of information and photos:
We can find numerous publications with entries which describe the distinguished service and ultimate sacrifice by Michael Trotobas:
- S.O.E. Archives File on Michael Trotobas at the UK's National Archives;
Trotobas and SOE in Northern France" by Stewart Kent and Nick Nicholas (2015 - ISBN 978-1-47385-163-4);
- Sabotage in France
During World War Two by Bernard O'Connor - (2015 - ISBN 1291592334);
- Story of War Hero Michael Trotobas" which is an article from "The Argus"
Here is an excerpt from issue #49 of "After the Battle" on both Michael Trotobas and Guy Biéler:
- Wikipédia entry for Michael Trotobas (in French);
- Book titled "Scarlet to Green by R.S. Elliot - (1981 - ISBN 096905470X).
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.
Collection - Display - Michael Trotobas
In the left photo, on display is Michael Trotobas' personal log/journal covering early military training including personal photos.
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