A GIFT WITH STRINGS ATTACHED

HMS FIDELITY AND CONVOY ONS 154

When a French spy with a grudge offered the services of his ship in 1940, the Royal Navy was happy to accept. However, as Jonathan Falconer discovers, HMS Fidelity never got to start its raiding mission in the Far East

A rare photograph of the Le Rhin, later renamed HMS Fidelity
ALL IMAGES VIA THE AUTHOR UNLESS NOTED OTHERWISE
Madeleine Gayard, an expert in explosives, ciphers and sabotage, was Péri’s accomplice and lover. Her charms were tempered with a ruthless streak matched only by that of Péri
In June 1940, Claude Péri assumed command of Le Rhin from René Cannebotin, who he demoted to navigator. He then ‘stole’ the ship while it was making for North Africa from Marseilles, putting in to Gibraltar where he negotiated its handover to the Royal Navy

The tale of HMS Fidelity is one of the strangest to come out of World War Two. When the former French merchant vessel sailed from Liverpool with Convoy ONS 154 on a gloomy December day in 1942, its fate less than a fortnight later was the culmination of a series of events that could have come straight from a Tom Clancy thriller.

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