The two sisters who were spies will have their place in Canfranc

The Sisters of Canfrancise Pilar and Lola Pardo García I joined with 24 and 16 years accordingly to intervene as spies in Canfranc in favor of the French resistance during the years of World War II (1939-1945) after the request of Albert Leley, responsible for French Customs since 1940with whom they had a very close relationship until he had to flee there in September 1943. They were part of Rick and Mythorpe’s networks.

The plenary session of the Canfranc City Council decided by an absolute majority that these sisters would have a place dedicated to their memory in the next complex in the area between the new station and the big hotel. Although a street was thought of, it is planned that the specific place that will remember them will be announced at the opening of the area next fall.

Apart from the Pardo sisters, other places will be dedicated to Albert Le Lay – a Breton who, after the World War and because he risked his life for the French, the President of the French Republic Charles de Gaulle offered him, to be a minister in the government and he did not accept it – as well as the hundreds of workers who built this international railway in the early 20th century (until 1928), among whom there were many who died. This was announced by the mayor of Canfranc, Fernando Sanchez.

Albert Le Lay, second from right, Superintendent of Customs at Canfranc Station.

Many trips between Canfranc and Zaragoza. Pilar Pardo was more silent about her intervention in favor of the Resistance during those difficult years that, with the Nazi invasion, changed Europe, but in reality she was responsible for this action. They usually worked in the house of the Le Le family and this trust made them choose them because they also had contact with the Civil Guard.

in this function Pilar had a lot of help from her little sister Lola, who was a tailor. At first, after a lifetime of silence, she asked her eldest for permission to reveal this story. only then it Lola told HERALDO DE ARAGÓN, after attending a book launch at Canfranc station. The story will be published on July 14, 2002.

They made quite a few train journeys from Canfranc to Zaragoza. To protect themselves, they went along with the secret messages that Le Le had given them to deliver to an army chaplain who was involved in the Resistance. Sometimes the older one went alone.

Lola said that her sister Pilar was “very timid” and so she asked her to accompany her, because she was ahead, almost a teenager, and saw these trips as a game. On the train they went to a civil guard while hiding the secrets,

One day Monsieur Le Lay explained to us that we were to carry secret correspondence and warned us that it was very dangerous. We knew what we were doing. He also asked us if we were arrested never to say anything,” the youngest daughter said before she died in 2015 aged 88.

Pilar helped the Le Lay family – the married couple and their youngest son, 9 – hide in the stable of their house in Canfranc on the last night before they escaped the Nazis, on September 23, 1943. Members of the Gestapo arrived at the border in search of the head of customs. The Civil Guard asked for Le Lay, but were told they had not seen him. The couple and their young son (they had two other daughters, one was studying in Madrid and the other had left by train) disembarked at dawn with customs agency official Mariano Aso accompanying them by lamp until they reached the old town.

There they were picked up by a car sent by The French Consul in Sabinanigo, Robert Lamit, manager of the French company Pechenei to take them to Zaragoza, from where they took another to Madrid. No one knew that Pilar and Lola Pardo’s family had helped Le Lay in this way. Contacts with the Germans in Canfranc multiplied because they exchanged milk for chocolate. At the end of the world war, when he was received from the Le Lay family at Canfranc station, They immediately went to greet the two Pardo sisters to thank them for saving their lives. Eventually, after a long time, everything came to light.

In numbers


The arrival of German troops at Canfranc station took place in the fall of 1942, when they occupied all of France. Since there was a French section of the station, the Nazi military occupied it and changed the flag. Its main function was to control the transfer of Nazi gold, which they used to pay Spain and Portugal, who sold them tungsten for armored tanks in World War II. This uniqueness of the railway station is the reason why it is the only place in Spain occupied by the Nazis, since that country did not declare its entry into the conflict.

The resistance

The French resistance mobilized against the Nazis from the same station at Canfranc, where several spy networks such as Rick and Mythorpe were involved to provide information to the British government. The head of the French customs, Albert Le Lay, took charge of them and offered the Pardos their cooperation in the traffic of documents between Canfranc and Zaragoza, making the journey by train. They handed him over to a Spanish army chaplain who cooperated with them and was waiting for them near El Pilar.


Pressure from Nazi troops and the Gestapo led to Albert Le Lay receiving notice that he was being hunted after they uncovered his networks. On September 23, 1943, the family fled (the daughter by train and the parents with another son in a taxi). The head of customs eventually fled to Gibraltar and took refuge in Algeria after an escape that was supported by the British government and the Resistance.


Nazi troops fled Canfranc station in mid-1944 as the French resistance defeated them and some of the German soldiers were treated in Zaragoza hospitals. The Allied victory in World War II led Canfranc station to sing the Marseillaise, the national anthem of France. In 1945, at the end of the war, Albert Le Le returned to the post of Chief of Customs, having avoided being a minister under Charles de Gaulle because of his large contribution to secrets. Upon arrival, he embraced the Pardo sisters.

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