The exact number of Special Operations Executive agents who served in France isn’t known, but the female branch is estimated at forty. The two female agents in my Eve’s War series are a composite of twenty-one of those agents and my stories are based on their real-life experiences.
Giliana Balmaceda was the first female agent the SOE sent to occupied France. Born in Chile c1910 she worked as an actress in Paris where she met Victor Gerson, a British citizen and a dealer in fine rugs and carpets.
The couple married and on 18 June 1940, at the signing of the armistice, they escaped to Britain where they joined the SOE.
Victor Gerson suggested creating a network of helpers to assist the entrance and exit of SOE agents assigned to France and Giliana volunteered to assess the possibility.
In May 1941 the SOE sent Giliana into occupied France. She returned through Spain in late June 1941. During her three months in France Giliana travelled freely in Lyons and Vichy, ostensibly on holiday, her Chilean passport securing her passage.
With a large haul of intelligence, contacts and administrative documents, such as ration cards, Giliana returned to Britain. There, the SOE reproduced the documents and subsequently agents used them on their clandestine missions.