The Heroines of SOE
Female spies are often the stuff of legend and myth. Here, for the first time, Beryl Escott tells the true story of the incredible 40 women who worked for Britain's Special Operations Executive during the Second World War. These women came from a variety of backgrounds, from Gillian Gerson a Chilean actress, to the Irish Mary Herbert, recruited for her linguistic skills, through to the famous Odette Samson--the "darling spy." She explores what made them risk their lives, even those with new-born babies, for a cause greater than themselves. She takes us on a journey through their recruitment and training into their undercover operations, as they diced with death and details their often tragic demise from death by injection to being shot in a prisoner of war camps. This is a far from glamorous picture, but a moving and gripping story that needs to be told.
The Heroines of SOE
‘They were the war’s bravest women, devoted to defeating the Nazis yet reluctant ever to reveal their heroic pasts. Now a new book tells their intrepid tales.’ Daily ExpressBritain’s war in the shadows of male spies and subterfuge in the heart of occupied France is a story well known, but what of the women who also risked their lives for Britain and the liberation of France? In 1942 a desperate need for new recruits, saw SOE turn to a previously overlooked group – women. These extraordinary women came from different backgrounds, but were joined in their idealistic love of France and a desire to play a part in its liberation. They formed SOE’s F Section.From the famous White Mouse, Nancy Wake, to the courageous, Noor Inayat Khan, they all risked their lives for King, Country and the Resistance. Many of them died bravely and painfully, and often those who survived, like Eileen Nearne, never told their stories, yet their secret missions of intelligence-gathering and sabotage undoubtedly helped the Resistance to drive out their occupiers and free France. Here, for the first time is the extraordinary account of all forty SOE F women agents. It is a story that deserves to be read by everyone.Squadron Leader BERYL E. ESCOTT served in the RAF and is one of the foremost experts on the women of SOE.
‘A fascinating, superbly researched and revelatory book – told with tremendous pace and excitement’ William Boyd On 18 June 1940 General de Gaulle broadcast from London to his countrymen in France about the catastrophe that had overtaken their nation – the victory of the invading Germans. He declared ‘Is defeat final? No! . . . the flame of French Resistance must not and will not be extinguished’. The Resistance began almost immediately. At first it was made up of small, disorganised groups working in isolation. But by the time of the liberation in 1944 around 400,000 French citizens, nearly 2 per cent of the population, were involved. The Special Operations Executive (SOE) set up by Winston Churchill in 1941 saw its role in France as helping the Resistance by recruiting and organising guerrilla fighters; supplying and training them; and then disrupting the invaders by any means necessary. The basic SOE unit was a team of three: a leader, a wireless operator and a courier. These teams operated in Resistance circuits and the agents were given random codenames. The aim of this work was to prepare for the invasion of Europe by Allied forces and the eventual liberation of France. It was soon decided that women would play a vital role. There were 39 female agents recruited from all walks of life, ranging from a London shop assistant to a Polish aristocrat. What linked them was that they knew France well, were fluent in French and were prepared to sacrifice everything to help defeat the enemy. The women trained alongside the men, learning how to disappear into the background, how to operate a radio transmitter and how to kill a man with their bare hands. Once trained they were infiltrated behind the lines by parachute or tiny aircraft that could land in remote fields. Some of the women went on to lead thousands of Resistance fighters, while others were arrested, brutally interrogated and sent to concentration camps where they endured torment and death. Lonely Courage tells their story and sheds light on what life was really like for these brave women who tumbled from the sky.
Nancy Wake is one of the true heroines of World War II. Born in New Zealand, she was living in Marseille and was married to Frenchman Henri Fiocca when the Germans invaded. Nancy immediately became active in the Resistance movement, smuggling messages and food to underground groups in Southern France and helping refugees flee to Spain. By 1943 she was on the Gestapo most-wanted list. Their nickname for her, due to her elusiveness, was the "White Mouse." It was time for Nancy to leave France. After six escape attempts Nancy reached Britain—where she promptly became one of the 39 women to join the British Special Operations Executive. Parachuted back into France, she became the virtual leader of a 7,000-strong branch of the Maquis. This book tells the extraordinary story of this exceptional woman.
The Spy Who Loved
In June 1952, a woman was murdered by an obsessive colleague in a hotel in South Kensington. Her name was Christine Granville. That she died young was perhaps unsurprising, but that she had survived the Second World War was remarkable. The daughter of a feckless Polish aristocratic and his wealthy Jewish wife, she would become one of Britain’s most daring and highly decorated secret agents. Having fled Poland on the outbreak of war, she was recruited by the intelligence services long before the establishment of the SOE, and took on mission after mission. She skied over the hazardous High Tatras into Poland, served in Egypt and North Africa and was later parachuted into Occupied France, where an agent’s life expectancy was only six weeks. Her courage, quick wit and determination won her release from arrest more than once, and saved the lives of several fellow officers, including one of her many lovers, just hours before their execution by the Gestapo. More importantly, perhaps, the intelligence she gathered was a significant contribution to the Allied war effort and her success was reflected in the fact that she was awarded the George Medal, the OBE and the Croix de Guerre.
I Heard My Country Calling
The remarkable true story of SOE heroine Elaine Madden, told for the first timeAfter a tragic childhood among the Great War cemeteries of Flanders fields, a troubled young woman searches for love and meaning in war-ravaged Europe. Elaine Madden's quest takes her from occupied Belgium through the chaos of Dunkirk, where she flees disguised as a British soldier, into the London Blitz, where she finally begins to discover herself. Recruited to T Section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) as a "fast courier," she is parachuted back to the country of her birth to undertake a top secret political mission and help speed its liberation from Nazi oppression. Elaine Madden never claimed to be a heroine, but her story proves otherwise. Its centerpiece—war service as one of only two women SOE agents parachuted into enemy-occupied Belgium—is just one episode in an extraordinary real-life drama of highs and lows, love, loss, and betrayal. Relayed to the author in the final years of her life, Elaine's true story of courage and humor in testing times is more intriguing, more compelling than fiction.
Women Heroes of World War II
Bringing to life such courageous women as Noor Inayat Khan, a radio operator who parachuted into occupied France and transferred crucial messages; Johtje Vos, the Dutch housewife who hid Jews in her home and was repeatedly interrogated by the Gestapo; and Hannie Schaft, a Dutch law student who became involved in the most dangerous resistance work—sabotage, weapons transference, and assassinations—these 26 profiles provide refreshing images of women as war heroes. The engaging and suspense-filled stories of brave girls and women from Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain, and the United States are told through the use of dialogue, direct quotes, and document excerpts to lend authenticity and immediacy. Introductory material opens each section to provide solid historical context, and each profile includes informative sidebars and “Learn More” lists of relevant books, Web sites, films, and more, making this a fabulous resource for students, teachers, parents, libraries, and homeschoolers.
Odette Brailly entered the nation's consciousness in the 1950s when her remarkable--and romantic--exploits as an SOE agent first came to light. She had been the first woman to be awarded the GC, as well as the Legion d'Honneur, and in 1950 the release of a film about her life made her the darling of the British popular press. But others openly questioned Odette's personal and professional integrity, even claiming that she had a clandestine affair with her supervisor Captain Peter Churchill. In the first full biography of this incredible woman for nearly 60 years, it delves into recently opened SOE personnel files to reveal the true story of this wartime heroine and the officer who posed as her husband. From her life as a French housewife living in Britain and her undercover work with the French Resistance, to her arrest, torture, and unlikely survival in Ravensbruck concentration camp, it is revealed for the first time the truth of Odette's mission.
They Fought Alone
Set Europe ablaze.' The order came from Churchill himself. The result was the Special Operations Executive - the SOE. Established in 1941 with the aim of supplying Occupied France with a steady stram of highly trained resistance agents, this clandestine Second World War network grew to become a cricual part of the Allied arsenal. Ingeniously engineering acts of sabotage, resistance and terror in the face of the occupying Nazis, the SOE dealt devastating and fatal blows to the German war effort - and directly contributed to the rapid and successful advance of Allied forces across France in the days and months after D-Day. At the head of the French operations stood Colonel Maurice James Buckmaster, the leader of the SOE's French Section. These are his extraordinary memoirs. A lost classic, now available for the first time after many decades, They Fought Alone offers a unique insight into the courageous triumphs and terrible fates of the SOE's agents between 1941 and 1944. This new edition includes an introduction by intelligence historian Michael Smith that deals with the recent controversy surrounding Buckmaster, restoring his reputation as one of the most important figures in the resistance to the Nazis.
SOE in France 1941 1945
In the archives of the Special Operations Executive lay a report compiled by a staff officer and former member of SOE's French Section, Major Robert Bourne-Patterson, that until recently could not be published. Because of the highly sensitive nature of the work undertaken by the SOE, the paper was treated as confidential and its circulation was strictly limited to selected personnel. Now, at last, it can be made available to the general public. Limited, also, was the time available to Bourne-Patterson in compiling his report in 1946 as the SOE was being wound up and many documents were being ÔweededÕ from the files. Nevertheless, the paper he wrote gives a good picture of the work of the SOE in France, the country where its operations were most extensive. It contains an overview of operations in France by the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War with detailed records of individual circuits from their inception onwards, containing much information concerning individual agents and their contacts, calendars of subversive activity against the Germans and the names and addresses of personnel connected with the circuits who had survived the war. In writing his account, Bourne-Patterson drew heavily on personal interviews and wartime debriefings by agents.