Did You Know: Radio Londres

Did you know that, during World War II, at the beginning of certain programs, the BBC was sending coded messages to resistance groups throughout Europe?

Radio Londres was a radio broadcast from 1940 to 1944 from the BBC in London to Nazi occupied France. It was entirely in French and was operated by Free French Forces who had escaped the German occupation.

It served not only to counter the Nazi propaganda broadcasts of Radio Paris and Radio Vichy, but also to appeal to the French to rise up and to send coded messages to the French Resistance.

Broadcasts would begin with “Before we begin, please listen to some personal messages.” It was clear to nearly everyone that they were coded messages, often amusing, and completely without context.

Representative messages include “Jean has a long mustache” and “There is a fire at the insurance agency,” each one having some meaning to a certain resistance group.

They were used primarily to provide messages to the resistance, but also to thank their agents or simply to give the enemy the impression that something was being prepared.

Because of the flood of messages and the limited number of Germans available to work to decipher them, the Nazis were not able to keep up.

Often by the time they were able to decipher a message, the operation ordered would have already been carried out, prompting the occupiers to focus their efforts on jamming the messages instead.

The most awaited secret message by the BBC came with the approach of D-Day and was from the first two lines of a Paul Verlaine couplet.

Blessent mon cœur d’une langeur monotone ([The violins of autumn] wound my heart with a monotonous languor) was the specific call to action.

By late 1944, Allied victory in France sounded the end of Radio Londres.