Anne-Marie Walters

Anne-Marie Walters was born in Switzerland on 16 March 1923. Under the code name Colette she served the Wheelwright network as a courier. Twenty years old when she arrived in France she was, after Sonya Butt, the youngest female agent of the SOE.

Anne-Marie was born in Geneva. Her mother was French while her father was F.P. Walters, Deputy Secretary-General of the League of Nations. The family left Switzerland for Britain after the outbreak of the war and Anne-Marie joined the WAAF in 1941.

The SOE recruited Anne-Marie on 6 July 1943 and after a period of training she joined the Wheelwright network in France arriving on 4 January 1944.

On 16 March 1944, Anne-Marie celebrated her twenty-first birthday. Her hosts provided a beautifully decorated birthday cake with twenty-one lighted candles. However, the candles soon emptied the room for they were pieces of detonating fuse painted pink by the group’s explosives expert!

After D-Day the French Resistance became bolder and the Nazis more brutal in suppressing any opposition. On 21 June 1944 an estimated 2,000 soldiers of the German army attacked a pocket of the Resistance led by Lt. Colonel George Starr. During the battle, Anne-Marie distributed hand-grenades to the Resistance and buried incriminating documents in a cave under a church. She also collected SOE money and took it with her when she and the Resistance withdrew from the village. 

During her time in the SOE, Anne-Marie clashed with section leader George Starr. Of him she later said, “He is strictly an agent and neither a politician nor a military strategist…the guerrilla action he commanded was most unsuccessful.” In turn, Starr criticised Anne-Marie. He said, “She wore high Paris fashion,” thus violating his principle that couriers should be inconspicuous. He ordered her to leave France adding that she was “undisciplined, indiscreet, very ‘man-mad’ and disobedient.”

However, Starr, a controversial character who faced a court of enquiry when he returned to Britain, acknowledged Anne-Marie’s courage and willingness to undertake any mission. 

Anne-Marie left France in August 1944 and travelled through Spain en route to Algiers. In Britain she wrote a report. In her report she claimed that Starr accused her of having an affair with a fellow agent and of spreading rumours that he was having an affair with a female SOE agent. 

In 1946, Anne-Marie published a book, Moondrop to Gascony, detailing her experiences in the SOE. Her book, beautifully written, won the John Llewellyn-Rhys prize in 1947.

Later, under her married name, Anne-Marie Comert, she established herself as an editor, translator and literary agent. She died in France in 1998, aged 75.