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French spy radio sets - under construction

During World War II (WWII), France was a divided country [3]. After the German invasion and the subsequenty Battle of France in May/June 1940, most of the country came under German control, whilst the south-east part became a neutral state known as Vichy France [4].

In the meantime, Free France — the French government-in-exile 1 — tried to control the parts of France that were unoccupied or that had been liberated. In 1940, the Free France COS established the BCRA 2 intelligence service, as the successor to the pre-war Deuxième Bureau.

The BCRA became responsible for organising the various resistance groups in occupied France, carrying out military operations (with the British SOE/MI6), counterintelligence operations (with MI5) and setting up escape routes. In 1943 the BCRA was merged with the clandestine branche of Vichy France and went on as DGSS, which in 1945 (after the end of the war) became the SDECE.

During WWII, the BCRA used many different spy radio sets for communications between London and agents in France, most of which were supplied by the British SIS, the SOE or and the Polish clandestine service operating from London (UK). Some of these radio sets are listed below. After the war (during the Cold War) some radios were reused by the (secret) Stay-Behind Organisation, until they were replaced by newer radio sets that were made in Germany, Austria and France. 3

  1. Operating from London (UK).
  2. Initially known as SR (1940), then as BCRAM (1941), then as BCRA (1942).
  3. Very little is known about the development and production of spy radio sets and related equipment in France during WWII and during the Cold War.

French spy radio sets on this website
BCRA transmitter
Spy radio set built for the French Army
French spy radio set for voice (1949)
Telefunken B2M, clone of the British B2
Telefunken ESK-52 (made for the French intelligence services)
Telefunken ESK-632 (made for the French intelligence services)
French plug-in transmitter Type 2
French TR-TG-2A spy radio set - WANTED
Telefunken spy set FS-5000
Other spy radio sets used in France
Whaddon Mk V spy radio set (La Paracette) - 1941
Whaddon Mk VII spy radio set (Paraset) - 1942
Whaddon Mk XV (Mark 15) spy radio set - 1943
The famous Type 3 Mark II, also known as the B2
BP-3 spy radio set developed by the Poles in the UK
The UK Type 36/1 (MCR-1)
Norwegian Receiver Type 31/1 (Sweetheart)
RBZ receiver (WWII)
The UK Type A Mk. III (A3)
AP-5 spy radio set, developed by the Poles in the UK
Full duplex UHF radio for resistance communication and air droppings
Related equipment
EM-038-B French binaural aperiodic intercept receiver in suitcase
Known French WWII radio sets
The following radio sets are known to have been used by France during WWII:

Known French Cold War radio sets
  1. Not the real designator, but a nickname given by Crypto Museum.

Intelligence agencies
During World War II (WWII), the main French intelligence service – previously known as Deuxième Bureau – was operated by the Free France – the French government-in-exile in London. Although the agency changed name nearly every year, it is most commonly known as BCRA, a name that was used by many people, well into the Cold War.

1940-1941   SR — Service de Renseignements
Military intelligence service of Free France — the French govermment-in-exile in London during WWII — established on 1 July 1940. Renamed BCRAM in April 1941.
1941-1942   BCRAM — Bureau Central de Renseignements et d'Action Militaire
Central Bureau of Military Intelligence and Operations. Military intelligence service of Free France — the French govermment-in-exile in London during WWII — established on 1 July 1940 as SR and renamed to BCRAM in April 1941, and again in January 1942 to BCRA.
1942-1943   BCRA — Bureau Central de Renseignements et d'Action
Central Bureau of Intelligence and Operations. Active during WWII from 1940 to 1943, as the successor to the pre-war Deuxième Bureau. Established on 1 July 1940 as SR, renamed BCRAM in April 1941, and then BCRA in January 1942 — the name by which it is best known (even after WWII). Merged in 1943 with the clandestine service of the CIG into DGSS, which later became the DGER and finally the post-war SDECE.  Wikipedia
1943-1944   DGSS — Direction Générale des Services Spéciaux
General Directorate for Special Services. French military intelligence service from 1943 to 1944, after a merger of the CIG and BCRA, controlled from the French government-in-exile in London. In 1944 renamed DGER, but neverthemess called BCRA by many people.
1944-1945   DGER — Direction Générale des études et recherches
General Directorate for Studies and Research. French military intelligence service from 1944 to 1945, established in 1943 as DGSS. Renamed SDECE in 1946.  Wikipedia
1946   SDECE — Service de Documentation Extérieure et de Contre-Espionnage
Foreign Documentation and Counter-Espionage Service. Established in 1946 as the successor to the BCRA (1940), DGSS (1943) and DGER (1944).  Wikipedia
 Other French intelligence agencies
Intelligence officers
During WWII, intelligence gathering members of the French Resistance were officially recognised as agents or officers of the Free France intelligence service BCRA. There were three levels, that were identified with the following codes:

  • 0 or 01
    Listed agent who works occasionally for the Resistance
  • P1
    Intelligence agent or official who works for the Resistance in the usual way
  • P2
    Intelligence agent or officer who works permanently for the Resistance

Mk. VII   Paraset
One of the first radios to be used by the French services during WWII, was the British Mk.VII, commonly known as the Paraset. Developed by the British SIS (MI6), the transmitter produces 4 Watts of RF power.

It is believed that the Germans were able to detect (and locate) the signal from the receiver's local oscillator from several kilometres away.

 More information

Paraset (Mk. VII) with headphones

Type 3 Mk.II   B2
The British Type 3 Mk.II, better known as the B2, was a powerful 15W radio station, developed by SOE captain John Brown and introduced in 1942.

It is arguably the most well-known British WWII spy radio set, not least because of its wide deployment during the war and even during the Cold War. It came in a suitcase (as shown here), or a two watertight containers.

 More information

Operating the Type 3 Mark II (B2)

BP-3 is a compact spy radio set, built by Polish engineers in the UK in 1943, as an alternative to the large British sets, like the Type 3 Mk.II (B2).

It is housed in a black 'toolbox' and is not only much smaller than the British B2, but also more powerful (50 W instead of 15 W).

 More information
Polish BP-3 spy radio set

MCR-1   Type 36/1
Midget Communications Receiver MCR-1, also known as Type 36/1, was a miniature MW/SW receiver, issued by the British SOE in 1943. It was intended for the reception of secret coded messages, broadcast by the BBC radio, and for short-wave (SW) resistance communication.

It came with a same-size mains power supply unit (PSU) and was usually delivered in a bisuit tin, hence the nickname biscuit tin receiver. It was later also used as part of the Jedburg sets.

 More information

MCR-1 receiver with coil pack 4 attached

Sweetheart   Type 31/1
Type 31/1, nicknamed Sweetheart, was a sub-miniature body-wearable receiver, developed for the SOE in 1943 by the Norwegian engineer Willy Simonsen whilst working for the ISRB.

Althjough initially intended for the Norwegian resistance, it was also used by the SOE for operations in other countries, such as France, as an alternative to the British MCR-1.

 More information
Type 31/1 (Sweetheart)

RBZ is a fully self-contained short-wave receiver, developed in 1943 in the USA. It consists of two parts – the receiver and a battery pack – and was suitable for the reception of instructions hidden in regular BBC broadcasts during WWII.

It was used by the French Resistance, by British SAS troups during Operation Houndsworth in Morvan (France) in June 1944, and during the D-Day landings on the coast of Normandy.

 More information

Click to see more

Type A Mk.III   A3
The Type A Mk. III, also known as the A3, is the British answer to the compact Polish spy radio sets of WWII, such as the BP-3, which were not only smaller, but also more powerful than the British Type 3 Mk.II (B2).

Although the A3 is smaller than the Polish BP-3, it is still less powerful (5 W instead of 50 W).

 More information
Type A Mk. III

The AP-5 was a short to mid-range spy radio transceiver, built by Polish engineers in Stanmore (UK) during WWII. It was introduced in 1944 and was not only used by Polish agents, but also by the British SOE, the French BCRA and by several other countries.

Unlike earlier Polish sets, slike the BP-3, the AP-5 has a built-in mains power supply unit (PSU).

 More information
AP-5 spy radio set

S-Phone was a two-way full-duplex short range UHF radio set, instroduced by the SOE in 1942. It was used by resistance groups and SOE agents behind enemy lines, and for communication with friendly aircraft during landings and droppings.

 More information
S-Phone ground transceiver

The BE-20/2 was developed immediately after WWII – in 1948 – by the Austrian manufacturer Dr. Hermann Berger. It was built for the French Army – who controlled part of Austria at the time – and was used for communication with the Austrian stay-behind organisation ÖWSGV.

The set was also deployed in French Indochina. In total 100 sets were built, but only 90 were eventually taken. The remaining 10 were left with the Austrian Army.

 More information

Berger BE-20/2

The ESK-52 was developed by the German manufacturer Telefunken around 1952, was was made especially for the French clandestine services. Like its German counterpart — the Type 41 — it is based on the wartime British B2.

For security reasons, the transceiver is described in the accompanying documentation as Amateur Radio Set. A leter version – suitable for speech – is known as ESK-632.

 More information

ESK-52 spy radio set

EE-2 (real name unknown) was a French plug-in transmitter that obtained its power from the socket of the EL84 valve in the AF stage of a regular domestic broadcast receiver.

The device is very small and was usually supplied – together with a morse burst encoder – to agents in East Germany (DDR) who were spying for the French intellice service.

 More information

French plug-in transmitter Type 2 (EE-2)

The TR-TG-2A was a modular spy radio set, built around 1965 by Lagier & Cie in Marseille (France), for the French Special Forces (13 RDP) and for the French shay-behind organisation.

For special forces, the set was supplied in a canvas backpack, whilst the stay-behind version came in a briefcase or travel suitcase.

 More information
TR-TG-2A transceiver with PSU

FS-5000   Harpoon
In 1980, it was decided to put an end to the wide variety of (incompatible) spy radio sets used by the various stay-behind organisations in Europe.

Under supervision of NATO, AEG-Telefunken in Germany was commissioned to develop a pan-European automatic radio set, under the code­name HARPOON. From 1989 to 1993, France had between 100 and 200 of these radio sets, most of which have menwhile been destroyed.

 More information
Complete FS-5000 radio station

  1. Description du Materiel D'Emission et de Reception...
    ...Utilise par les Agents des S.R. étrangers, Pendant la Guerre 1940-1946
    Radio equipment used by foreign intelligence services during WWII (in French language). European Research Association. Date unknown.
  1. Wikipedia, France
    Retrieved July 2019.

  2. Wikipedia, National emblem of France
    Retrieved July 2019.

  3. Wikipedia, France during World War II
    Retrieved July 2019.

  4. Wikipedia, Vichy France
    Retrieved July 2019.
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Crypto Museum. Created: Friday 19 July 2019. Last changed: Thursday, 13 April 2023 - 07:22 CET.
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