Lonely courage : the true story of the SOE heroines who fought to free Nazi-occupied France / Rick Stroud
- London : Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2017
Includes bibliographical references (pages 259-280) and index
The French Resistance began almost as soon as France surrendered to Adolf Hitler's troops. At first it was made up of small, disorganized groups of men and women working in isolation. But by the time of the liberation of France in 1944 around 400,000 French citizens (nearly 2% of the population) were involved. The Special Operations Executive (SOE) set up by Winston Churchill in 1941 saw its role in France as recruiting and organising guerilla fighters; supplying and training them; and disrupting the invaders by any means, including sabotage, the collection of intelligence and the dissemination of black propaganda designed to demoralise the Germans. The aim of this work was the eventual invasion of Europe by the Allied forces and the liberation of France. As described in Sebastian Faulks' bestselling book Charlotte Gray, women would play a major role in SOE activities over the coming years of the war, and those in charge of SOE in London believed it necessary and vital to deploy operatives who could speak French and were adept at espionage. 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. Now, for the first time, we shed light on what life was really like for these brave women who infiltrated France by moonlight to help bring the downfall of the Nazis. From their selection and training; dropping into Occupied France, their attempts to survive on a day-to-day basis whilst being hunted by the dreaded German Gestapo; to the actions and ultimate achievements of these key women. Some survived by luck through the war, whilst others would be captured, tortured and executed before the Nazis final capitulation. Their stories only coming to light thanks to the dogged detective work of the commanding officer who had sent them on their missions and her determination to find out what happened to her girls.
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