Eurostar names train after 'the man who saved London'

Contributed by admin on Apr 28, 2004 - 09:46 AM


Eurostar, the high-speed train service that carries passengers between the UK, France and Belgium, officially named o­ne of its trains yesterday (27 April) after Michel Hollard - the French businessman who was o­ne of the most courageous spies of World War II and credited as "the man who saved London".

The "Michel Hollard" Eurostar will be officially unveiled by VIP guests including Sir John Holmes, the British Ambassador, in Paris Gare du Nord, in the morning. The Eurostar will then embark o­n its first journey - to London Waterloo International, where it will be formally received by the UK Minister for Europe, Denis MacShane, and the French Ambassador to London, Gérard Errera.

On board the train will be around 100 VIPs associated with the late Michel Hollard, including close family and friends.

Michel Hollard was born in France in 1898 and died in 1993, aged 95. Although decorated in the late 1940s by both the British and French governments, during his lifetime he never received the wide public recognition that many felt he deserved.

A businessman and spy, Michel Hollard smuggled documents from France to the British intelligence service in Berne, which showed the site of 104 launch-pads for the world's first unmanned weapon, the V-1 flying bomb. He made a scale model of the launch-pads from the sketches which enabled the RAF to successfully identify and bomb the sites in northern France. The sketches, which had been copied from a masterplan left in the coat pocket of a German engineer, had been brought by Hollard across the Franco-Swiss border to the British Embassy in Berne. In total he crossed the border 98 times at great personal risk.

The British reacted rapidly and, starting in December 1943, more than 100 V-1 launch sites in northern France were repeatedly bombed by the British RAF and destroyed or severely damaged. If the sketches had not reached Britain when they did, there could have been a devastating air attack o­n southern England.

Hollard had built up his "Agir" network of agents - recruited among civilians and especially SNCF railwaymen - in important locations who helped him to convey vital information about Nazi activities to the British authorities.

After World War II had ended, Michel Hollard was invited to Downing Street by the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, but Hollard was unable to attend as he did not have the appropriate suit demanded by the etiquette of the day. In a fitting tribute, a reception will be held for the VIP party at the Cabinet War Rooms in London after the Eurostar "Michel Hollard" has arrived.

Paul Charles, Director of Communications, Eurostar, said: "In the centenary year of the Entente Cordiale, there is no better time to name o­ne of the Eurostar trains after Michel Hollard. It is a long overdue tribute to the courage and bravery of this extraordinary man - and railway workers across France - who did so much to save London in the war."

One of Michel Hollard's sons, Vincent, commented: "My father acted with such courage. He would have been very proud to have a Eurostar named after him and those who helped him. I hope that the many thousands of travellers who use the Eurostar service will now become familiar with the name Michel Hollard and appreciate the importance of his services to both Britain and France."

The first Eurostar train to be named - "Entente Cordiale" - was unveiled by HM The Queen o­n 5 April at the start of the recent State Visit to France.