The White Rabbit

John Woolacott Yeo was baptised at Bideford in 1831, the second son of Thomas Yeo and Mary Wolacott. He married Penelope Sarah Collingwood in London, at the parish church of St Dunstan-in-the-West on 11 December 1853.

The parish register records the groom as a reporter, a bachelor resident in Fleet Street and of full age (i.e. over 21); it describes his father Thomas Yeo as a gentleman. The same source records the bride as a spinster of full age, her residence as Dartford, Kent and her father as Lewis Collingwood deceased. They were married by licence and both signed their names. The witnesses Joshua Ellman and Mary Ann Symons appear to have been members of the congregation as they witnessed other marriages at the same church.

The 1861 census for St Giles, Lambeth shows the same John Yeo at 5 Rose Cottages. His age is given as 32, his occupation as ‘printer and reader’ and his birthplace as Bideford, Devon. Listed with him are his wife Penelope (35, birthplace Poplar), his niece Ada Yeo (13, birthplace Enfield) and his daughters Sophia Mary (4) and Penelope Sarah (1).

Ada Yeo’s birth had been registered as Ada Rogers at Edmonton in the third quarter of 1847. Sophia Mary Yeo’s birth had been registered at Camberwell in the first quarter of 1878. Penelope Sarah Yeo’s birth had been registered at Newington in the third quarter of 1859.

John Woolacott Yeo died in France in 1885.

Sophia Mary Yeo married Harrison James Forest Thomas in Paris in 1876. Their son John Yeo Thomas became a coal merchant; he married Daisy Ethel Burroughs in Cardiff in 1901. John Yeo Thomas and his wife Daisy had a son Forest Frederick Edward Yeo Thomas [notes 1, 2]. His fluent French and his desire to participate led to his joining R.A.F. Intelligence at the outbreak of the Second World War and later the Special Operations Executive. He worked with the Resistance in occupied France from early 1943, gained the rank of Wing Commander, and was decorated with the Military Cross, the George Cross and the Légion D’honneur. He was nicknamed ‘The White Rabbit’ and his wartime exploits were described by the author Bruce Marshall (see Recommended reading).

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1. Born in London in 1902 (birth registered at Marylebone in the second quarter); died in Paris in 1964.
2. Did Forest Frederick Edward Yeo Thomas have a wife Lillian Margaret Yeo Thomas, who died in Paris in 1977, and a daughter Evelyn Yeo Thomas, born in Paris in the late 1920s?