Forest Frederick Edward Yeo-Thomas is probably a name not many will be familiar with. Known as "Tommy", Yeo-Thomas rose to the rank of Wing Commander in the RAF and was instrumental in organising the resistance movement in France to mount effective operations.
Yeo-Thomas was a fluent French speaker who had lived in France from a young age. To him, Paris was home and German occupation was something personal. After escaping to Britain, Yeo-Thomas found himself working for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and mounted three operations into enemy occupied France to help organise the resistance as well as aiding the escape of Allied airmen.
On the third of his missions Yeo-Thomas was betrayed to and captured by the Gestapo in Paris on March 21st 1944. The Gestapo were aware that they had captured the elusive "Shelley" and realised the importance their prisoner. Over the next couple of months Yeo-Thomas endured repeated torture and brutal interrogations but steadfastly refused to divulge any information.
Eventually, Yeo-Thomas was transferred to the notorious Buchenwald concentration camp where he witnessed the inhuman treatment of his fellow man by the Nazis at first hand. Even in this hellish camp, Yeo-Thomas continued to organise resistance and plan escapes. He finally managed to find a way out of Buchenwald by adopting the identity of a dead French prisoner and was transferred to another camp.
In April 1945 and despite being weakened by dysentery, Yeo-Thomas led an escape of 20 prisoners, but after being separated from his comrades Yeo-Thomas was captured again - just 800 yards from the American lines. A few days later, he escaped again and this time succeeded in leading a party of POWs through the German defences and into the safety of the US lines.
Yeo-Thomas was in many ways an everyday ordinary man who, finding himself in extraordinary circumstances, found levels of courage and fortitude which are unimaginable to many of us today. To me personally, Yeo-Thomas epitomises the British hero. Someone who didn't have to get involved, who could have easily seen out the war in relative comfort but who chose instead to risk his life as well as his sanity to defend the things he believed in from those he saw as a threat to our way of life.
A remarkable man.