Britain’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. ‘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 Express Squadron Leader BERYL E. ESCOTT served in the RAF and is one of the foremost experts on the women of SOE.
The history of SOE’s war in the shadows has been told many times and much is known about the men who fought underground. However, less is known about the women who also risked their lives for Britain and the liberation of France.By 1942 SOE (Britain’s Special Operations Executive) was in desperate need of new recruits for their dangerous missions in France and they turned to a previously unexplored group – women. These female recruits came from all levels of society and were often motivated by an idealistic love of France and a desire to play a part in its liberation. They formed SOE’s F Section. Many displayed unexpected qualities. Some proved good leaders, like Pearl Witherington, others like Nancy Wake laughed their way through the war, many others like Noor Inayat Khan showed astonishing courage through terrible privations, and many of them died bravely and painfully. Without doubt their contributions to Britain’s secret missions of intelligence-gathering and sabotage 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 astory that deserves to be read by everyone.
After 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 centrepiece – 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 humour in testing times is more intriguing, more compelling than fiction.
During the Second World War, 156 RAF men successfully escaped from German PoW camps in Western Europe. A further 1,975 men evaded capture after having been shot down over this same territory. Martin Bowman has drawn together tales of just a handful of these men, illustrating the bravery and resourcefulness that characterised their experiences. British, American, and Canadian pilot testimonies all feature, as does the fascinating story of a female secret agent, parachuted behind enemy lines. By bringing these stories together, Bowman is able to capture an authentic sense of the times at hand and the reality of life as an escaper/evader during this tumultuous and incredibly dangerous time. This is an entertaining publication set to keep readers on the edge of the seats, and it serves as a tribute to the courageous individuals who found themselves behind enemy lines during the Second World War.
The Official List of SOE Casualties and Their Stories
Author: John Grehan
Publisher: Pen and Sword
The Special Operations Executive was one of the most secretive organizations of the Second World War, its activities cloaked in mystery and intrigue. The fate, therefore, of many of its agents was not revealed to the general public other than the bare details carved with pride upon the headstones and memorials of those courageous individuals.Then in 2003, the first batch of SOE personal files was released by the National Archive. Over the course of the following years more and more files were made available. Now, at last, it is possible to tell the stories of all those agents that died in action.These are stories of bravery and betrayal, incompetence and misfortune, of brutal torture and ultimately death. Some died when their parachutes failed to open, others swallowed their cyanide capsules rather than fall into the hands of the Gestapo, many died in combat with the enemy, most though were executed, by hanging, by shooting and even by lethal injection.The bodies of many of the lost agents were never found, destroyed in the crematoria of such places as Buckenwald, Mauthausen and Natzweiler, others were buried where they fell. All of them should be remembered as having undertaken missions behind enemy lines in the knowledge that they might never return.
Pearl Witherington Cornioley, one of the most celebrated female World War II resistance fighters, shares her remarkable story in this firsthand account of her experience as a special agent for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). Told through a series of reminiscences—from a difficult childhood spent in the shadow of World War I and her family’s harrowing escape from France as the Germans approached in 1940 to her recruitment and training as a special agent and the logistics of parachuting into a remote rural area of occupied France and hiding in a wheat field from enemy fire—each chapter also includes helpful opening remarks to provide context and background on the SOE and the French Resistance. With an annotated list of key figures, an appendix of original unedited interview extracts—including Pearl’s fiancé Henri’s story—and fascinating photographs and documents from Pearl’s personal collection, this memoir will captivate World War II buffs of any age.
The Schoolteacher Who Saved American Lives in Slovakia
Author: Sonya N. Jason
This book tells the story of Slovak underground member Maria Gulovich’s unlikely heroism, focusing on the former elementary schoolteacher’s courageous actions in saving American OSS agents. It describes how, while trapped with the agents behind enemy lines, she forayed into enemy occupied villages to find scarce food for the starving men, spied out enemy troop strength, and occasionally obtained shelter from blizzards with terrified but kind citizens. For her heroism, the U.S. government presented her with a Bronze Star. The work includes an extensive bibliography, a map of the area held by insurrectionists, and several photographs offering a glimpse of World War II seldom seen.