171127 History Talk 27th Nov: Women of the SOE

Date: Monday 27th Nov 10:30
Location: Salón de Actos, Espai la Senieta, Moraira (next to the large free car park)
Subject: Young Women of the SOE (Special Operations Executive) in WW2
Lecturer: Brian Nicholls

Although modern media abounds with re-runs of World War Two, as far as our lecture programme goes, one hesitates to present talks about modern military history. Although this is entirely understandable with regards to battles, which tend to be somewhat tedious, other aspects of that huge conflict are worth revisiting as new research information is revealed.

The world of spies always fascinates, particularly so when the espionage activity took place in such a dangerous country as Germany under the ideology of the Nazis. The fact that so many of those caught were executed is not unusual. All countries operated the same policy and I always felt quite sorry for the German, would-be spy, who parachuted into wartime Britain, broke his leg on landing, and then became the last person to be shot in the Tower of London.

This talk is about the many young women who volunteered to go behind enemy lines, mainly in France, to act as wireless operators or on courier duties, but who sometimes found themselves involved in violent clashes with police and military authorities. Many were captured, and many died under very unpleasant circumstances. One of the enduring mysteries is that far too many were betrayed by people who were supposedly on their own side. Some were betrayed from the very centre of operations back in London, the details of which are still the source of much debate today.
In today’s modern world it is often asked as to why young women were exposed to such dangers. The answer is that they were all totally fluent in French, well educated, very loyal and trustworthy, very adept at handling Morse code and were much more able to fit into wartime France than their male counterparts.

I will try to present what is now known.