Captain Stanisław MAKOWSKI
Photos - Antoine Vincent coll. via Tony Lark (left) and Pawel Jedrzejewsk
Stanisław Makowski was born 19 May 1914 in Korbul, a small town then in the province of Bessarabia, part of the Russian Empire, but later to become part of Romania and now (as Corbu) in Moldova. He was the son of a wealthy land owner and wine producer, Henryka Makowski and his wife Stefana (née Ygdrsejowska), both Polish nationals. Makowski’s mother had died and his father remarried a younger woman, only 12 years older than Stanisław who was the oldest of five children, having two sisters (Maria and Władysława) and twin brothers (Józef and Adam). As such, he was expected to take over the family business (centred in Kruszwica) to which his education was therefore directed. According to Philippe de Vomécourt (see below) Makowski had lived some of his early life in Russia, where his father had extensive property interests. The revolution had then dispossessed the family of its interests in Russia and they returned to Poland where Makowski received his primary and secondary education. He undertook one year’s national military service in an officer training unit of the Polish Army from 1932 to 1933 and gained his certificate of secondary education in 1933. He then attended the University of Poznań from 1934-35 to study agriculture, followed by two years at the Institut Supérieur de Commerce de l’Etat in Antwerp, Belgium. From 1937 to 1938 he studied in France at the Institut de Commerce de Grenoble and then at the Ecole Nationale de l’Agriculture at Montpellier from 1938 to 1939. He developed an interest in introducing the silk work industry to Poland and his father’s estates which were near the Romanian border and as his studies permitted, he also travelled widely – visiting Norway, Morocco, Romania, Austria, Switzerland and northern Italy as a tourist. When studying in France in 1938 he met and became engaged to an English girl from Sunderland, Alice Lawther, and he spent the last summer of peace in 1939 by touring England and Scotland with her by car - motoring and touring being two of his hobbies, together with all sports, geography and stamp collecting.
His studies and life of leisured ease were only interrupted when it became necessary for him to take over his father’s business, yet even as he did so, Germany invaded his homeland and war was declared. As a member of the Polish Army’s reserve, Makowski had been commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in January 1937, but although he hastened to volunteer for active service, he was too late to serve in the defence of Poland. He instead joined General Sikorski’s Polish Army in France in September 1939 and participated in the rearguard action in northern France until June 1940. Evacuated to Britain after the fall of France, Makowski married his fiancée Alice in February 1941 and continued to serve in the Polish Army with the service number P/204697. In September 1941, disillusioned with the Polish authorities in Britain, he transferred to the British Army as a subaltern in the 1st Battalion of the Gambia Regiment, part of the 81st (West Africa) Division formed within the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF). He served with the RWAFF in Gambia until September 1943 when he returned to Britain in time for the birth of his child the following month. Sadly, the birth was a difficult one, the infant died after only a few weeks and Makowski’s wife was left very ill. To help her Makowski, having signed on with the British Army for a further two years, obtained a posting to the 9th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment, then based in Shildon, Co. Durham, close to where he and his wife were then living in Harton, South Shields.
The ill-health of his wife, together with the plight of Poland where all Makowski’s family were now living under German occupation, caused Makowski considerable anxiety but he remained determined to play a more active part in the war. With his linguistic abilities and wide knowledge of Europe, he felt himself to be suited to Intelligence work and therefore, in November 1943, he volunteered for SOE and was accepted for assessment in early December. He was a member of Party 27AG and was considered by the Students Assessment Board at STS 7, Winterfold House, Cranleigh, on 16 December 1943. He was given a general assessment of ‘C’ with a fairly modest intelligence rating of 5, but good achievements in Morse and mechanical matters. He was described as quiet, reserved and phlegmatic and although it was felt he had not yet had to fend for himself in life, his considerable military experience was noted, together with a readiness to command and accept responsibility. While not considered a forceful character, he demonstrated clear thinking, energy and determination. Due to his continuing worries about his wife, he expressed the wish for a short-term mission only and the SAB expressed concern that his domestic ties might cause him to withdraw during training.
Cleared to continue to his Group A paramilitary training, Makowski was sent to STS 23A at Meoble Lodge, Morar, Inverness-shire where his conducting officer, Lieutenant Gordon, found him a very pleasant and intelligent character with the civilized outlook on life that Gordon considered typical of an educated and cultured continental European. Generalising somewhat, Gordon found him ‘not the dashing romantic Pole of legend, but a pleasant, neat, careful man’. Waxing almost lyrical, Gordon continued his observations in colourful detail:
‘If I had met him without knowing his nationality I should have thought him an Austrian. He has many of the characteristics, gallantry without flamboyancy, a certain sentimentality, weakness of character, the ‘gemutlichkeit’ and easy going quality which are agreeable, a mild pre-occupation with being a gentleman without snobbishness…. To say I would place implicit faith in him would be an exaggeration, but if I wished to spend a pleasant, if unexciting, evening which would afford gastronomic rather than intellectual delights, with him I should be in good company. The evening would not end in roistering but a quiet drink about 2300 hours, a click of the heels and so to bed’.
Gordon’s impression of Makowski as resembling an Austrian was probably helped by the Pole’s physical appearance – he was blond-haired and blue-eyed with a generally fair complexion and was frequently described as ‘neat’. Makowski was clearly a very pleasant and well-liked character. Lieutenant Gordon sometimes wondered if Makowski was too nice a person for SOE’s type of work and noted he had several worries: regarding his wife whom he loved and missed; worsened financial circumstances due to links with his family money having been severed; for his family in Poland, and for his homeland generally. His instructor at Meoble Lodge was nevertheless impressed with his military knowledge, which Makowski built upon, and his ability to readily grasp and apply the instruction given. He was keen, especially when given responsibility, though the school’s commandant also puzzled over his diffidence which was so different from the self-confidence of most Polish personnel who passed through the school.
From Scotland, Makowski returned to England for his parachute course at STS 51, RAF Ringway. He was accommodated at STS 51A, Dunham Massey House, Altrincham, Cheshire and did well in all elements of the training. He made two good descents and was graded a respectable ‘second class’ at the end of January 1944.
Makowski’s Group B Finishing School was STS 33, The House on the Shore, at Beaulieu. He continued to perform well, but his assessor there was not as impressed as Lieutenant Gordon by his gentlemanly ways, feeling him to be too conscious of social distinctions and over-concerned with Poland’s troubles due to his national pride. How any Pole could not be concerned with his country’s plight at this time is difficult to comprehend. His assessor also came to the strange conclusion that Makowski did not like the French, and doubted whether he should be employed among them. Makowski’s subsequent service in the field was to prove this view to be seriously flawed, but it was nevertheless concluded that Makowski would make a good instructor or a reliable lieutenant to a circuit leader.
To equip him for his designated role, Makowski was finally sent to a Group C Operational School, STS 40 at Howbury Hall, near Waterend, Great Barford, Bedfordshire in March 1944. His work with the S-Phone, Eureka and reception committee organization won high praise and on 16 March 1944 he was finally recommended as ready for active service.
Makowski parachuted into France on the night of 5/6 April 1944. Though surviving records are contradictory and unclear, he was almost certainly one of the eleven agents dropped from three Halifax sorties dispatched by 161 Squadron that night to STATIONER circuit receptions, Leccia, Geelen and Allard (all q.v.) of LABOURER being three of the total. Makowski’s code name was MACHINIST, his field name was Dimitri and his false identity was in the name of Jean Romieu. His orders were to support Philippe de Vomécourt and his VENTRILOQUIST circuit and, specifically, to use the time until D-Day to find and encourage recruits to the maquis groups in the Eure et Loire and the Loir et Cher and to organize material and arms drops for them.
During his first month in France, however, Makowski could not be contacted by de Vomécourt, but he nevertheless set to work in the Indre region where he had been dropped, giving arms instruction to maquisards. At one point, Makowski was lodged on a farm in the Creuse region and in the latter half of May, helpers of the STATIONER circuit collected him and another F Section agent, André Studler, and took them to a meeting in the rue de la République in Châteauroux where both were given orders, probably received by STATIONER’s W/T operator, Amédée Maingard, to meet de Voméourt at St.-Viâtre, some 90 kilometres away. Studler had been in a similar position to Makowski. He and his organizer, George Wilkinson (q.v.), together with their radio operator Lilian Rolfe (q.v.), had been waiting for over a month for contact with de Vomécourt. Wilkinson had eventually set off on his own, leaving Studler in a hotel, to try to find de Vomécourt and other contacts.
Both Makowski and Studler were relieved to at last receive definite news of de Vomécourt and set off by taxi the same afternoon, with an accompanying guide. The journey was not without incident, for after staying overnight at the farm of M. Prado, near Bagnoux, they awoke the next morning to a full-scale enemy operation against a nearby wood which had been surrounded in the belief that it held a maquis group. An estimated 150 German troops were involved while three enemy spotter planes circled overhead, causing Makowski and Studler some anxious moments. Eventually, however, the operation was called off, no maquis were found and the agents continued by taxi to St.-Viâtre where, after a meal at the home of the Inspecteur des Eaux et Forêts, they were taken to a small wood outside the town where they at last met de Vomécourt. The latter arranged for both agents to be accommodated in the village of Neung-sur-Beuvron where Makowski stayed with a former French Army Colonel in a large country house.
Makowski then moved to Salbris where he first lodged with the garage owner, Antoine Vincent who was also to provide a home from home for Muriel Byck. He also stayed with the local Secrétaire de Mairie, a man known as ‘Le Barbu’. From Salbris, Makowski went back to St. Viâtre where he stayed with the village butcher, Monsieur Bardin, while he continued his instruction in the Sologne and organized several small maquis of his own there. His main group was very active in support of the allied invasion and consisted of I5O men at Souesmes, 10 kilometres to the north-east of Salbris. By all accounts, Makowski was very successful in his role, effectively targeting the enemy’s petrol and oil supplies, power and communication cables, bridges and locomotives in the Sologne region and quickly gaining the trust and respect of the maquis groups with whom he worked and who knew him either by his field name Dimitri, or as Capitaine Maurice or Monsieur Jean. De Vomécourt described Makowski as having an attractive personality which quickly won over the local Résistance leaders including, though Makowski had been anti-communist, those of the FTP. This was helped by his eagerness to engage the enemy as much as possible, de Vomécourt noting that Makowski was ‘not over-endowed with the qualities of restraint’. Perhaps the best example of this came on 17 June 1944 when the Souesmes maquis under his command was attacked by a strong German force, estimated at some 2,000. Though heavily outnumbered, Makowski urged his men to stand and fight and, after letting a few of his older family men slip away while there was still time, Makowski set up defensive positions. Not opening fire until the last possible moment, the maquisards took a heavy toll of the advancing Germans before falling back and disengaging as planned by Makowski. Local French sources were later to exaggerate the conservative estimate that neverthess put the number of German dead and wounded at 77, while Makowski’s forces had lost just nine killed in action, four taken prisoner and shot, and eight wounded. Eight local hostages were taken by the enemy and later deported, five of them did not return from Germany, but the Battle of Souesmes, as it was termed, gave great heart to the local population. At considerable personal danger, Makowski later returned to the site of the maquis camp and blew up the ammunition that they had left behind – to save it falling into enemy hands.
After the break-up of the Souesmes maquis caused by this engagement, Makowski moved on to the area around Romorantin where he organised several smaller maquis groups and continued the same type of sabotage as before, generally disrupting German troop movements, transport and communications. He had a post box at the house of Desiré Duzinière in Nouan-le-Fuzelier and De Vomécourt recorded an instance when Makowski shot up a group of the despised Milice, killing four at the cost of only one slightly wounded among his own men. He also later related in what high regard Makowski was held by the local maquis leaders – Dasnières at Nouan-le-Fuzelier, Colonel Marais at Neung-sur-Beuvron, Raoul Duval at La Feté St-Cyr and Commandant Gauthier at Romorantin, among many others. Another note on Makowski’s SOE file records that the Mayor of Romorantin was later to state that he himself had been a member of a Résistance group organized by Makowski and, as such, had been proud to receive his orders from the British War Office.
Makowski’s high standing and high profile in the region came at a price. De Vomécourt related that a reward of one million francs was offered by the Germans for Makowski’s capture, but as chance would have it, betrayal was not to be the cause of the courageous Pole’s fate, but simply ill chance. For Makowski’s luck finally ran out when, on 17 August 1944 (local French police, municipal and Résistance sources emphatically confirm the 17th, though the date shown in Makowski’s SOE file and used on his CWGC headstone is 23 August) he was driving from Romorantin, accompanied by two maquisards, Bernhard Rohmer, a young man of 21 who was one of Makowski’s most trusted helpers, and 39-year-old Auguste Mauny. Makowski’s car, a Citroën, was crudely protected by sheets of steel attached to its sides and Makowski was at the wheel as they approached Neung-sur-Beuvron. The three men were taking a supply of clandestinely-printed proclamations from the local FFI leader, Colonel Dufour, for distribution by the Résistance groups in Blésois. The journey had already been eventful as they had crossed the path of a German car and opened fire, killing the occupants. But as they entered the outskirts of Neung, they ran into a column of Germans who had stopped in the town and set up check-points around themselves, having just suffered several losses in an engagement with a local maquis force. By instinct, Makowski accelerated in the hope that he might get past the German troops by surprise, the enemy being on foot and without vehicles. But as he reached a bridge over the Beuvron river, he saw the way ahead blocked by one of the checkpoints. Braking hard, he turned the car back in the direction of Romorantin, but as he did so, his passenger door burst open and Rohmer was thrown from the car, almost at the feet of the sentries at the checkpoint. Opening fire on them, Rohmer was given support by Mauny who brought his Sten into action from the back seat of the now stationary Citroën. The car was, however, firmly in the sights of the German column that it had just sped past and the enemy opened fire, killing Mauny instantly and badly wounding Makowski in the shoulder and the knee. As the Germans advanced cautiously on the car to take Makowski prisoner, Rohmer threw himself into the river and attempted to swim to the other bank, but was killed when the Germans fired on him and threw grenades into the water.
Dragged from his car, Makowski was beaten and kicked by some of the Germans who were in no mood to be lenient with what they must have assumed to be one of the local maquisards responsible for attacks on them. They took him back into the village for interrogation and dragged him into the grounds of Saint Léon, the large country house owned by Colonel Marais who had been active with Makowski. While Marais made good his escape on a bicycle in order to hide in the countryside, Makowski was roughly interrogated on the lawn. At this point Makowski, probably realizing that he was about to be summarily executed as a French ‘terrorist’, revealed he was a British officer and demanded that he be treated as such. For a man such as Makowski, an officer and a gentleman, this may have seemed a logical move - despite his Finishing School training at Beaulieu which would have warned him what to expect if the enemy discovered he were an agent. To the Germans, the discovery that Makowski was an agent of the British, in their terminology a ‘spy’ and responsible for organizing and arming the French ‘terrorists’ attacking their forces, would have meant only that special treatment was required and that he should be kept for interrogation. While they therefore dressed his wounds and took him to Romorantin for further treatment at the hospital there, it was only a prelude to transfer to the Feldkommandantur for questioning by Oberleutnant Goike of Feldgendarmerie 577.
The Résistance in Romorantin kept an all-night vigil for anyone leaving the Feldkommandantur and at 5.30 a.m. a car did so, into which was clearly loaded a covered body. The car left in the direction of Salbris, but returned only a little later with no sign of the body within. Makowski’s supporters mounted an immediate search of the Salbris road and at around 7 a.m. his naked body, terribly mutilated with bayonet slashes to his face, was found thrown in a ditch on the chemin des Gentils at Les Granges, in Lanthenay, then two kilometres outside of Romorantin (the two communities have since merged into one). His comrades took a photograph of his body (not reproduced here, but in the author’s possession) before it was buried the following day in the cemetery of the hospital in Romorantin, with the help of the hospital’s sisters. The grave was shown as belonging to ‘Captain Dimitri’ alias ‘Maurice’, alias ‘Jean’. De Vomécourt reported that his grave was kept covered in flowers by local people until the liberation, after which there were ceremonies in honour of Makowski and Muriel Byck (q.v.) in both Romorantin and at Neung.
The summary of Makowski’s service, penned by Colonel Buckmaster reads:
‘keen and enterprising young officer, who worked extremely well in the field. Brave and tough, he set a very fine example and was much loved.’
The reference to Makowski having been much loved reflects the high esteem in which he was held by the maquis groups with whom he served and organized – in contrast to the low expectation of STS 33 at Beaulieu. In recognition of the extremely good results that Makowski had achieved in a relatively short period of time in the field (20 weeks), and also because of the torture he had undergone, he was initially recommended for the highest possible award – the George Cross. His citation for the award concluded:
‘This brave and gallant officer deserves high praise for his remarkable work in French resistance and his outstanding courage and endurance both in action and under torture. It is recommended that he be awarded the George Cross (posthumous award).’
The George Cross was not, however, granted and he instead received a posthumous Mention in Despatches. From the French authorities he received the Croix de Guerre avec étoile de vermeil.
In an intriguing note added to Makowski’s SOE personal file, record is made of an SOE contact or helper named Makowska (the feminine adjectival form of Makowski) who ‘helped escaped POWs’. The fact that this contact is described as an Englishwoman married to a Pole, and that the record has been placed on Makowski’s file, suggests that his wife may have assisted SOE’s Polish Section in supporting escaped POWs, but no further details were given and it seems no relevant file has survived.
Makowski’s body was subsequently exhumed from the cemetery in Romorantin and reburied, together with that of Muriel Byck, in the CWGC’s Pornic War Cemetery in the Loire-Atlantique, some 330 kilometres away on the Atlantic coast. He is commemorated on the French Section SOE memorial at Valençay; on the war memorial in Romorantin-Lanthenay, where there is also a street, allée du Capitaine Makowsky (sic), named after him; and a memorial to Makowski, Rohmer and Mauny was inaugurated in 1945 in a ceremony by the bridge in Neung-sur-Beuvron at which over 1,500 Résistance and FFI representatives were present. In a sad reflection of the already-fading link between the remaining elements of SOE and the French who had loyally served the organization, there was no British presence at the ceremony. Makowski, together with Rohmer and Mauny, is also commemorated on the memorial, a few kilometres from Souesmes itself, to the men of the Souesmes maquis who were killed in the engagement of 17 June 1944.
Sources: Makowski’s SOE personal file is at TNA HS9/978/2 and SOE’s initial interest in him is mentioned in HS 4/259. Philippe de Vomécourt’s book ‘Who lived to see the Day’ also gives a number of descriptions of Makowski’s service. The details of Makowski’s capture and death come from the book ‘La Résistance en Sologne’ by Paul Guillaume. The Battle of Souesmes is described in ‘De la résistance a l’Indochine’ by Pierre Alban Thomas and additional details and photographs (including those from the Antoine Vincent collection) come from Alain Rafesthain’s ‘Le Maquis de Souesmes en Sologne’. Police and Résistance records of Makowski’s death come from the Direction des Archives Départementales, Blois. Much of the above detail was researched by Tony Lark, with assistance from Adeline Quentin and Alain Rafesthain. Family details and photographs were kindly provided by Pawel Jedrzejewski, nephew of Stanisław Makowski. Local present-day photographs were taken by Tony Lark and Simon Ingyon.
Copyright reserved © Paul McCue 2015.
While undertaking his national service in the Polish Army, pictured with his aunt and uncle in Warsaw.
Photo: Pawel Jedrzejewski.
Makowski as a student in Antwerp in 1936.
Photo: Pawel Jedrzejewski.
Makowski in South Shields, England in 1939, just before the outbreak of war.
Photo: Pawel Jedrzejewski.
With wife Alice in England in 1940.
Photo: Pawel Jedrzejewski.
Above: while serving in 1942 with the 1st Battalion of the Gambia Regiment, part of the 81st (West Africa) Division of the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF).
Photos: Pawel Jedrzejewski.
Makowski while undergoing training in Britain.
Photo: Antoine Vincent coll. via Alain Rafesthain and Tony Lark.
Makowski’s coding details.
Makowski attended STS 7 at Winterfold House, Cranleigh, Surrey in December 1943.
Photo: Paul McCue, courtesy Tony Hampton.
Paramilitary School - STS 23A, Meoble Lodge, Morar, Inverness-shire.
Photo: David Harrison.
Below - parachute training involved Makowski staying at STS 51A, Dunham House, while undertaking ground training at STS 51, RAF Ringway. Photos: Tony McDonald and PMM coll.
Below - parachute jumps were then conducted from static balloons and Whitley aircraft into Tatton Park. Photos: PMM coll. and R.A. Bridgeford coll.
Finishing School - STS 33, The House on the Shore, Beaulieu, Hampshire.
Photo: PMM coll.
Operational School - STS 40, Howbury Hall, Bedfordshire.
Photo: PMM coll.
Above - Makowski's I.D. photos for his insertion into France.
Photos: Antoine Vincent coll. via Alain Rafesthain and Tony Lark; PMM coll.
Photos: Antoine Vincent coll. via Alain Rafesthain and Tony Lark; PMM coll.
Above - Makowski parachuted into France from a Halifax aircraft on 5/6 April 1944.
Photo: PMM coll.
Above - the memorial by the bridge at Neung-sur-Beuvron where Makowski was captured. Photos: Tony Lark.
Saint-Léon, the country house in Neung-sur-Beuvron where
Makowski was interrogated on the front lawn inside the gates. Photo: Madame Valdelièvre via Tony Lark.
Col Robert Marais escaped from the rear of Saint-Léon.
Photo - Madame Adeline Quentin via Tony Lark.
(above left) Makowski’s original grave in the hospital cemetery in Romorantin, photo: Alain Rafesthain coll. via Tony Lark; and
(above centre and right) his CWGC headstone in Pornic War Cemetery with the date of death of 23 August 1944, now believed to be incorrect, photos: Philip Curtis/Carole Crowley – WGPP
The street named after Makowski in Romorantin-Lanthenay.
Photo: Simon Ingyon.
Makowski’s name and the Polish flag on the war memorial in Romorantin-Lanthenay.
Photo: Simon Ingyon.