When he was featured in this WWll photo shortly after the surrender
of Großadmiral Karl Dönitz's aide-de-camp, David Coleman was a long way from
imagining he and his French wife Elisabeth, would one day own
a home in the heart of the Lot département...
the focus of fierce French resistance to Nazi occupiers during
Born in 1909 in Derby in the UK, David Coleman (above left)
married his second wife, Elisabeth de Laperouse (above right)
in 1979 just a few years before his death.
His family from his first marriage all live in the US. David
Coleman was educated at Malvern College and went up to Oxford
to read classics. Earlier he spent a year in France learning French
and then headed to what was then East Prussia to become fluent
in German. Later he acquired Spanish, Portuguese and some Turkish,
all of which stood him in good stead in his career as an intelligence
officer during the Second World War.
His wife – Elisabeth de la Perouse-Coleman who now lives at Thémines
in the Lot – hails from an Albigeois family and is a
direct descendent, niece five times removed, of Jean-François
Galaup de Lapérouse, Count of La Pérouse, born at Manoir du Gô
Albi in 1741.
Elisabeth, who herself spent many years in the US, first met
David Coleman in New York where he was raising horses. Recently
sitting in the garden of her Thémines home just a few kilometres
from the village of Loubressac which in late 1944 was the site
of the largest Allied parachute supplies drop to French resistance
fighters of the whole war, she recounted some of the espionage
escapades of her late husband.
The photo at the top of this page, shows David Coleman apparently
accepting surrender from Karl Dönitz's aide de camp, in a photograph that reliable
sources believe was posed specifically for the Danish newspaper
in which it was published and dated 12 June 1945. Elisabeth
still has a copy of the fading and now brittle paper.
"David", she said "was at one stage sent to Liberia
on an intelligence mission involving the German embassy there".
She produced a letter translated by her late husband, written
in 1966 by the former Nazi German ambassador in Monrovia, one
G. Waldheim, brother of Kurt Waldheim, the Austrian career diplomat
who served two five-year terms as UN secretary-general from 1972
to 1981 and later also as President of Austria. (A global scandal
erupted in 1986 while Waldheim was running for the latter post
after it emerged that he had not fully disclosed his activities
during World War II).
Elisabeth said: “My husband was sent to gather intelligence about
German codes from the embassy in Liberia because he spoke German
and local African languages. He befriended some of the African
staff at the German embassy and by deception gained entry to the
ambassador’s office after one of his staff doctored the ambassadorial
cocktails that evening with a sedative, enabling my husband to
remove the wallet.
She said that many years after the war David felt he should return
the wallet to the former ambassador and in 1966 sent a letter
to Waldheim in Valparaiso, South America.
Waldheim responded and in his letter, said that David was welcome
to the wallet as a souvenir but he (Waldheim) was "rather keen"
to know if the British authorities might return to him other papers
and scientific writings the ambassador had made on his own account
and which had been stolen during David’s raid. In his letter Waldheim
writes: “should we not together request your ex colleagues and
archivists from the secret service to search for these papers
which most certainly still lie dormant classified in some of Her
Majesty’s archives. In 1948 in Madrid I was given back private
property from members of your intelligence services which I had
“lost” in a far more fantastic manner (than that used by yourself
in the Monrovian library)."
Elisabeth still has the Waldheim wallet, the translated letters,
the Danish newspaper and other important documents related to
her husband’s wartime escapades.
Elisabth Colemans home, and bed and breakfast
near Thémines, Lot, France
Today surrounded by her memories she takes paying guests at her
bed and breakfast and gite in a beautifully restored old barn
in Thémines. La Boussole straddles the pilgrim route between Rocamadour
and Santiago de Compostela in Spain and attracts many walkers
on the pilgrim way.
Further pictures of her home and bed and breakfast in the Lot
. Meanwhile astute Australian tourists sometimes stop by
to meet this direct descendant of a French discoverer whose exploits
are remembered at Botany Bay and in a special museum in his home