CANADIAN HERO BEHIND ENEMY LINES
Gustave Bieler was one of them. In 1940, at age 38, he was an officer in the Regiment de Maisonneuve. He came from Montreal and volunteered for service in the S.O.E., Britain’s special operations (Spies). He arrived in the UK in 1940, was interviewed and sent for a 4 month training course in Scotland. His specialty was explosives and unarmed combat. At 38 years old, he was the oldest in his training class.
When his training was complete, he was dropped by parachute at night and landed just southwest of Paris and was met by partisans. His assignment was the recruitment and training of other cells all over France.
With arms and supplies of explosives by night flights and parachute drops by the S.O.E. in England, they began the work of blowing up trains, railway lines, factories, troop trains… they became very effective against the German occupation. Within a few months, Bieler had set up and trained 25 cells all over France, which was causing many delays in movements of German goods and troops. The Gestapo and Police began a manhunt to find the leader of this group offereing a 100.000 mark reward. Being involved always presented great danger as many people were afraid and became informers.
Bieler was a warm and affable man, highly regarded by his comrades, but alas, he stayed in France too long. The Germans were able to pick up his daily radio transmissions. In January 1944 he was arrested with his radio operator, a woman named Yolande Beekman. She was never seen again. Bieler was imprisoned for 4 months suffering brutal beating and torture.