Tall, with a refined face resembling a statesman, Phillipe Kieffer was 40 years old when he volunteered for active military service in French Navy after it declared war on Germany in September 1940. He served aboard a battleship, then at Northern Fleet headquarters, as he watched his beloved France crumbled under the heel of German jackboots invading from Belgium.

He realized the gravity of the situation, when on May 31st, 1940, British and French forces began wading by the thousands out to ships of every size to evacuate them to England, knowing France was doomed.

Those left behind fought fiercely, but to little avail, so smaller evacuations continued. Among those leaving near the end was Kieffer, arriving in London on June 19, three days before the surrender. Here he waited and searched for another opportunity to carry the fight back, and was rewarded on July 1, when he joined the Free French Naval Forces.

Serving as a translator and cipher officer, Phillipe Kiefer became enamored of the newly formed British commandos to the point that he requested authorization to create an all-French unit adopting the same model of training and structure.