Fourcade was extraordinary, escaping capture twice, once by squeezing naked through the bars of her cell and she gave birth to her third child while on the run from the Gestapo. The Alliance delivered crucial intelligence that made the D-Day landings on 6th June 1944 a success thanks to its agent Jeannie Rousseau thwarting Hitler’s plot to destroy London with V2 weapons and prevent an Allied invasion. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme commander of the invasion forces, later wrote: “Were the Germans able to perfect these new weapons six months earlier, it was likely that our invasion of Europe would have encountered enormous difficulties and, in certain circumstances, would not have been possible, I am certain that after six months of such activity, an attack on Europe would have been a washout.” Furthermore, another agent of Fourcade’s, the artist Robert Douin, delivered a hand drawn map of the D-Day beaches three months before the landings. It was 55 feet long, meticulously detailed and hailed as “the most complete military picture of the landing sites” that the Allied command would be given in the course of the war.
Marie-Madeline Fourcade’s story inspired my debut novel and Waterstones’ book of the month for June, The Umbrella Mouse, which opens after D-Day during the V1 attacks that started to hit London on 13th June 1944. Fourcade gave members of The Alliance animal code-names, earning them the Gestapo given nickname ‘Noah’s Ark‘. Hers was ‘hedgehog’ and she appears in The Umbrella Mouse in this form with other other real-life animals caught in the conflict of WWII. Fourcade has slipped through history because Charles de Gaulle chose not to honour her heroism, largely due to her gender and post war political in-fighting. The Umbrella Mouse is dedicated to her in the hope she will be remembered.
What a fascinating woman! I wonder how many others have slipped off the pages of history solely because of their gender? I think ‘The Umbrella Mouse’ is definitely a fitting tribute.
*Thank you to Macmillan Children’s Books for sending me a review copy of this wonderful title to review*