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William Charles Frederick Grover-Williams (born William Charles Frederick Grover, 16 January 1903 - February or March 1945), also known as "W Williams", was a Grand Prix motor racing driver and special agent who worked for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) inside Francemarker. He organized and coordinated the Chestnut network. He was captured and killed by the Nazis.

Born to an English father and a French mother in the Montrouge suburb of Paris, Francemarker, Grover-Williams grew up fluent in both the French and English languages. When World War I broke out, his family moved to Monacomarker where he got a job as a chauffeur. Mechanically inclined, and fascinated by motorized vehicles, Charles Frederick William Grover-Williams bought a motorcycle and began racing. Returning to Parismarker, in 1919 he worked as the chauffeur for the famous Irishmarker war artist, Sir William Orpen.

Personal and early life

Grover-Williams was born in Montrouge, Parismarker on 16 January 1903 to Frederick and Hermance Grover. Frederick Grover was an English horse breeder who had settled in Montrouge. Frederick met a French girl, Hermance Dagan, and they were soon married. Their first child was Elizabeth, born in 1897. William had two other siblings - Alice and Frederic.

When William was eleven, he was sent to live with relatives in Hertfordshiremarker, in the United Kingdommarker. After the war, Frederick Grover moved the family to Monte Carlomarker. It was there that William developed a fascination for automobiles, having been taught to drive a Rolls-Royce by his sister's boyfriend. Grover-Williams passed his driving test whilst in Monacomarker and was granted a licence. At the age of 15, Grover-Williams acquired a motorcycle made by the Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Company and it became his pride and joy. He would later go on to compete in motorcycle races in the early 1920s, although he kept it secret from his family by adopting the pseudonym, "W Williams".

In 1919, the Irishmarker portrait painter, William Orpen became the official artist of the Paris Peace Conference. Orpen bought a Rolls-Royce car and hired Grover-Williams as his chauffeur. At the time, Orpen had a mistress named Yvonne Aupicq. Aupicq and Grover-Williams became good friends and after the collapse of Aupicq's relationship with Orpen, the pair were married in 1929.

Racing career

William Grover-Williams at the 1929 Monaco Grand Prix
By 1926, Grover-Williams had begun racing a Bugattimarker in races throughout France, using the alias "W Williams", entering the Grand Prix de Provence at Miramasmarker and the Monte Carlo Rally. In 1928 he won the French Grand Prixmarker, repeating in 1929. That same year, driving a Bugatti 35B, painted in what would become known as "British racing green", he won the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix beating the heavily favored Mercedes of the great Germanmarker driver, Rudolf Caracciola.

In November 1929, Grover-Williams married Yvonne Aubicq, whom he had met when chauffeuring the two around Paris. Successful financially, they maintained a home in a fashionable district of Paris while owning a large house in the resort town of La Baule, Pays de la Loiremarker, on the Bay of Biscaymarker, which was home to one of the annual Grand Prix races. In 1931 he won the Belgian Grand Prixmarker at Spa-Francorchampsmarker. He also won the Grand Prix de la Baule three consecutive years (1931 to 1933). Then his career waned and he was out of racing by the latter part of the 1930s.

World War II

Following the Nazi occupation of France in World War II, Grover-Williams fled to Englandmarker where he joined the Royal Army Service Corps. Due to his fluency in French and English he was recruited into the Special Operations Executive (SOE) to foster the French Resistance. He recruited fellow racing driver Robert Benoist and together they worked in the Paris region to build up a successful circuit of operatives, forming sabotage cells and reception committees for parachute operations.

On 2 August 1943, Grover-Williams was arrested by the SDmarker and underwent lengthy interrogation before being deported to Berlin and was then held prisoner in the Sachsenhausen concentration campmarker.


Grover-Williams was executed at Sachsenhausen in the spring of 1945 along with Francis Suttill, another important SOE network leader.

Legacy and recognition

Grover-Williams is recorded on the Brookwood Memorialmarker in Surreymarker, Englandmarker, and as one of the SOE agents who died for the liberation of France, he is listed on the Valençay SOE Memorialmarker's Roll of Honour in the town of Valençaymarker in Francemarker.

Grover-Williams was recommended for an MBE by the head of the SOE, Major-General Colin Gubbins, in September 1945 but when it became clear that he had died, the honour was not awarded.

The Saboteur, a video game that is due to be released in 2009, has an Irish protagonist named Sean Devlin who is inspired by Grover-Williams.

Results and records

Grand Prix wins

Year Grand Prix Location Car Report
1928 French Grand Prixmarker Saint-Gaudensmarker Bugatti Type 35 Report
1929 Monaco Grand Prix Monte Carlomarker Bugatti Type 35 Report
French Grand Prix Le Mans Bugatti Type 35 Report
1931 Belgian Grand Prixmarker Spa-Francorchampsmarker Bugatti Type 51 Report
Grand Prix de la Baule La Baulemarker Bugatti Type 51 Report
1932 Grand Prix de la Baule La Baule Bugatti Type 51 Report
1933 Grand Prix de la Baule La Baule Bugatti Type 54 Report
† Grover-Williams shared a car with Caberto Conelli.

Complete European Championship results

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position)
Year Entrant Make 1 2 3 4 Pos. Points
1931 Usines Bugattimarker Bugattimarker ITA


Ret †

1 †
9= 14
1932 Private entry Bugattimarker ITA



9= 20
1936 Bugattimarker Bugattimarker MON




18= 28
† Grover-Williams shared a car with Caberto Conelli.




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