LaBrosse, Raymond Joseph Marcel
|Raymond Joseph Marcel LaBrosse|
|Died 6 August 1988|
|Place of birth||Ottawa|
LaBrosse was born in Ottawa Ontario.
LaBrosse was 18 when he joined 3rd Divisional Signals as a Signalman (Private) shortly after the start of the Second World War and was sent overseas in 1940. Since the British were chronically short of good radio operators, especially those fluent in French, LaBrosse was approached by MI-9, the British intelligence agency. In 1942, he was one of the first French speaking Canadians recruited by British Military Intelligence and trained further as a radio operator for subversive operations in France.
After eight abortive attempts to parachute him into France - pilots were unable to locate the assigned dropping zone - LaBrosse and a second agent were secretly dropped into Rambouillet Forest near Paris in February 1943. Their mission there was to round up downed Allied airmen who had evaded capture or escaped from imprisonment and route them through an underground railway to England.
While attempting to send 86 airmen to Spain, Val Williams, the leader of LaBrosse's team, was caught by German forces and imprisoned. LaBrosse managed to escape through Spain to Gibraltar, along with 29 fliers in August 1943.
Back in England, LaBrosse was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and prepared to return to France. It took only three flights to land him a second time, along with Lucien Dumais of Montreal, the team that was recognized as "one of the best teams MI-9 sent into occupied France", this time in a field 80 kilometers north of Paris.
LaBrosse and Dumais had undergone intensive training in everything from jiu-jitsu to building and operating wireless radio sets. They were given fountain pens that fired tear gas, buttons that hid compasses, large amounts of francs and forged identity papers. Each had his own code unknown to the other.
As radio operator for an underground railway called the Shelbourne Line, LaBrosse experienced difficulty maintaining radio contact with his London headquarters. He once took his radio on a train loaded with German soldiers to a Normandy hotel room in order to raise London. He also transmitted from a railway station, and after the liberation married the stationmaster's daughter Ginette Dorre.
- "We were very busy, engaged in rounding up the airmen wherever we could lay a hand on them" he told author Roy MacLaren for his book Canadians Behind Enemy Lines 1939-1945.
Before the Shelbourne Line was folded with the Allied invasion in 1944, it had dispatched 128 airmen and seven intelligence agents back to England. It was regarded as one of the most successful escape lines in France. With the Allied armies moving eastward across France in mid 1944, LaBrosse and his team leader joined forces with French underground Marquis units and were involved in their final engagements with the enemy.
For his efforts, LaBrosse was awarded the Military Cross, the Medal of Liberty with Silver Palm and the French Croix de Guerre and Legion of Honour. After returning to France briefly following the war, LaBrosse returned to Canada.
LaBrosse re-enlisted in 1948 with the Royal 22nd Regiment and fought in the Korean Conflict during the early 1950's.
On his retirement in 1971, he became an executive assistant in the Solicitor General's Department and then commissioner with the Canada Pension Commission.
He died in 1988.
- The London Gazette, Supplement 36785. 7 November, 1944. Page 5131.
- The London Gazette, Supplement 37909. 18 March, 1947. Page 1316.