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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #56

Dear Reader,

That noble beast, the thesaurus…

The great philosophers…

My Song of the Week

We can be anything, anything at all

We can be everything, everything and more

Another new project, the translation of The Olive Tree: Roots into Spanish. This series is about the Spanish Civil War so I’m delighted that the books are being translated into Spanish.

Chess and music are two of my passions. This is brilliant, a U2 cover of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” performed by Juga. The lyrics, by Vladimir Kramnik, refer to his World Championship match with Garry Kasparov.

My article about SOE agent Alix d’Unienville appears on page 20 of the magazine. Lots of other interesting features too 🙂

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway

Difficult times for everyone at the moment with some political leaders making it even more difficult than it needs to be. Hopefully, this calendar will help you in some small way.

Resistance Couples

Lucie Samuel, better known as Lucie Aubrac, was born on 29 June 1912. A history teacher in peacetime, Lucie became a leading member of the French Resistance.

In 1939, Lucie married Raymond Aubrac and after the Nazis occupied France in 1940 the couple joined the Resistance. In 1941, the Aubrac’s group sabotaged the train stations at Perpignan and Cannes, and distributed thousands of anti-Nazi flyers. 

Lucie and Raymond Aubrac

Despite harassment and threats from the Nazis, the Aubracs published an underground newspaper, Libération. With the help of local printers and trade-unionists, 10,000 copies of Libération were produced and distributed in July 1941, bringing news and hope to the French people; a reminder that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

An issue of Libération

In March 1943, the Gestapo arrested Raymond. In May, they released him, only to arrest him again in June. With Raymond sentenced to death, Lucie concocted an audacious escape plan.

Under French law, engaged couples were allowed to marry if one of them was soon to die. Therefore, Lucie claimed that Raymond was her fiancé. She was pregnant at the time, carrying her second child (of three). 

Lucie informed the Nazis that Raymond’s name was “Ermelin” (one of his many aliases) and that he had been caught in a raid while innocently visiting a doctor. She claimed that she was unmarried and that Raymond was the father of her expected child. 

Furthermore, Lucie pleaded with the Gestapo that they should allow Raymond to marry her before his execution. The Gestapo believed her story and granted her wish.

Later, after the ‘marriage’ ceremony, as the Gestapo escorted Raymond back to his prison the local Resistance executed Lucie’s plan. In cars, they ambushed the prison lorry and liberated fifteen prisoners. In the melee, Lucie freed Raymond and the couple escaped.

In 1944, Lucie was the first woman to sit in a French parliamentary assembly and in 1945 she published a short history of the French Resistance.

Outwitting the Gestapo, a semi-fictional version of Lucie’s wartime diaries, followed in 1984. Lucie published her book after notorious psychopath, Klaus Barbie ‘The Butcher of Leon’ claimed that Raymond had betrayed the Resistance after his arrest. 

Undoubtedly, there were factions and conflicts within the Resistance, particularly between the Gaullists and the Communists. As a result of these conflicts, betrayals did occur. However, when seeking the truth it is difficult to place great faith in a psychopath, particularly one who had reason to hate the Aubracs.

In support of the Aubracs, twenty leading Resistance survivors published a letter, condemning the accusations. Voluntarily, the Aubracs appeared before a panel of leading French historians. After examining the case, the historians concluded that Raymond was not a traitor.

To date, the Aubracs’ story has featured in two films – Boulevard des hirondelles, 1992, and Lucie Aubrac, 1997. While, in 1996, Lucie was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government for her heroism during the Second World War.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, in a statement after Raymond’s death in 2012, said that Raymond’s escape from the Nazis had “become a legend in the history of the Resistance” and praised him and all Resistance members as “heroes of the shadows who saved France’s honor, at a time when it seemed lost.”

While President François Hollande said, “In our darkest times, he [Raymond] was, with Lucie Aubrac, among the righteous, who found, in themselves and in the universal values of our Republic, the strength to resist Nazi barbarism.”

Lucie once said: “Resistance is not just something locked away in the period 1939-45. Resistance is a way of life, an intellectual and emotional reaction to anything which threatens human liberty.”

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #55

Dear Reader,

“The heart has its reasons which reason knows not.” – Blaise Pascal

In 1942 a Lockheed P38 Lightning crashed during training on the beach at Harlech, Wales. It is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Picture: RC Survey

Listening to and loving Paula’s interpretation of Eve’s War: Operation Zigzag, which is currently in production.

‘It wasn’t only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding; above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you.’ – Ian McEwan, in Atonement.

This is a Welrod Mk 1, the gun of choice for SOE agents during the Second World War.

In Operation Locksmith, book two in my Eve’s War series, Eve uses a Welrod for the first time.

The Welrod is an extremely quiet gun, producing a sound of around 73 dB when fired, and thus is ideal for clandestine operations.

“There was a definite process by which one made people into friends, and it involved talking to them and listening to them for hours at a time.” – Rebecca West

This week, I enjoyed a documentary about the Spitfire. With its elliptical wing design it must be the most graceful aeroplane ever built.

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world do this, it would change the earth.“ – William Faulkner

Local pictures this week, Kenfig coast.

A new series, Resistance Couples

Cécile Rol-Tanguy, born 10 April 1919, was a leading member of the French Resistance during the Second World War. She participated in the liberation of Paris, conducted clandestine operations and relayed confidential messages.

In 1936, Cécile met Henri Tanguy, a political activist who volunteered for the International Brigades and fought against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. The couple married in 1939 and their first child, Françoise, was born in November. Sadly, Françoise fell ill and died on 12 June 1940, two days before the Nazis entered Paris.

In an interview in 2014, Cécile recalled that painful episode: “I can still remember the terrible pall of burning smoke over Paris and wondering if that was what had made my baby ill. I left her in the hospital overnight, and when I went back the next day, there was another baby in her bed.”

Cécile and Henri Rol-Tanguy

During the Nazi occupation, Henri joined the French Forces of the Interior while Cécile supported the FFI as a liaison officer. 

After the birth of her second child, Hélène, Cécile used her baby’s pushchair to conceal guns, grenades and clandestine newspapers. At this time, 1942, the Nazis arrested Cécile’s father and deported him to Auschwitz, where he died.

Despite this setback, Cécile and Henri fought on. In May 1944, Henri was appointed regional leader of the FFI. With Cécile’s help he established an underground command post at Place Denfert-Rochereau, and from there the couple distributed messages to the Resistance.

25 August 1944, the 2nd Armored (Leclerc) Division destroy a Nazi tank in front of the Palais Garnier.

On 19 August 1944, Cécile and Henri published a pamphlet, a call to arms for the citizens of Paris. The people responded and on 25 August they liberated Paris, sweeping the hated Nazi occupiers aside.

Recalling that momentous day, Cécile said, “When they told us, (of the victory) we didn’t hear the bells ringing, but we had a pillow fight with the girls who were with me.”

Parisians line the Champs Élysée for a parade conducted by the French 2nd Armoured Division, 26 August 1944.

After the liberation, Henri became an officer in the French army while Cécile joined the Union des Femmes Françaises, an organisation that maintained the memory of Resistance and anti-fascist fighters. 

The couple had four surviving children: Hélène and Jean, who were born during the war, and Claire and Francis, who were born after the war. Later, the family left Paris to live near the Loire.

After 63 years of marriage, Henri died on 8 September 2002. Cécile passed away at her home at midday on 8 May 2020, the 75th anniversary of VE Day, aged 101. 

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #49

Dear Reader,

Wow, this week a historian specialising in the Special Operations Executive congratulated me on my Heroines of SOE blog posts. Obviously, I’m delighted about that 🙂

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Amazing to relate, but over the past month the Bulgarian version of The Hermit of Hisarya was my most popular book on iBooks. Yesterday broke all records for the book with a 400% increase on the previous best.

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Well, that’s my evening sorted…
The Daily Mirror, 14 October 1943
Mrs Josephine Skrodenis, 25 of Chicago, was granted a divorce yesterday because she claimed her husband used her as a “corpse” in solving murder mysteries.
When she was looking forward to spending a quite night at home with her husband, he would glare at her from pages of the latest detective novels and order her to “lay on the ground and act dead.”

Then, while she played “the reluctant body” he would try to discover who had “killed” her she told the court.

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From the Daily Mirror, 8 May 1944, VE Day

Women in Work

Agriculture 1939, 67,000…1944, 184,000
Mining 5,000…13,000
Civil Service 123,000…495,000
Utilities 17,000…32,000
Transport 51,000…212,000
Building and engineering 16,000…23,000

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I’m in talks with a narrator about recording audiobook versions of The Olive Tree and my Eve’s War series.
Meanwhile, I was listening to an audiobook chapter of Digging in the Dirt today when my youngest son asked, “Did you write that?”
Wondering what was coming next, I offered a tentative reply, “Yes.”
He smiled. “It’s good isn’t it. It sounds like a real book!”
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I’m super excited! Last night, I wrote a song! About tortillas. Although, on reflection, maybe it’s a (w)rap…

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The most popular page on my website this week. Harry Rée was a schoolteacher who starred in a documentary-drama film. He also fought the war in an extraordinary way. An inspiration for my Eve’s War series his philosophies continue to enlighten our thoughts today. https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/harry-ree/

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Good news, I’ve got a new job washing dishes and the pay is excellent. Bad news, it’s at a radar station…

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Our local castle at Kenfig

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My song of the week. “But mama, that’s where the fun is…”

My Women of Courage Heroines of SOE articles will continue in the near future, with male agents included as well.

Meanwhile, here is the first episode in Pearl’s Witherington’s story, as told by her official SOE file.

Pearl Witherington was a remarkable woman. Her life story serves as an inspiration for my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series.

In 1943, Pearl underwent training to become a SOE agent. Her file reveals a page of signatures where she practiced her new identity as Genevieve Touzalin, a secretary in a match company.

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This note is from the intelligence service M15 who looked into Pearl’s background when she volunteered for SOE training.

Initially. Pearl worked as a secretary for the British Embassy in Paris before making her escape, with her mother and sisters, from France. Her escape entailed many risks and adventures, which are not evident in this rather dry note.

Pearl showed great ingenuity in helping her family to escape and M15 concluded that she was a suitable candidate for training.

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From Pearl’s SOE file, her training notes on codes and cyphers.

Pearl’s keywords ‘fou tez moi la paix’ sound very much like her personal selection and offer a direct plea to her instructors to accept her as an agent…’give me a break’.

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As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

 

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #47

Dear Reader,

This is exciting, Looking for Rosanna Mee, which is published in September, is a Hot 💯 new release sitting alongside the legendary Bill Pronzini 🙂

https://www.amazon.com/Looking-Rosanna-Mee-Smith-Mystery-ebook/dp/B086C624BC/

I suspect this will be my book statistic of the week, my sales on Kobo are up exactly 1,000% (!) 🙂

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?query=hannah%20howe&fcsearchfield=Author

A busy week with audiobooks with five in production: Smoke and Mirrors, Stardust, Digging in the Dirt, Boston and The Devil and Ms Devlin, all in the Sam Smith Mystery Series. It’s always fascinating to hear how narrators interpret your words and it’s always great to work with other creative people.

Here’s some we made earlier https://hannah-howe.com/audio-books/

My Author of the Week, Val Tobin

As part of the Authors Give Back sale where authors support readers during this difficult time Val Tobin is offering her books for free and at 60% off the recommended retail price.

Nothing is more glorious than finding a book that keeps you turning pages to discover what happens next. Val Tobin’s stories will do just that. Take a journey with characters who will inspire you, intrigue you, and entice you to read just one more chapter.

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/valtobin

The Chocolate Egg and the Router

Earlier this week, I lost my Internet connection. An engineer was due today, so yesterday evening I decided to tidy the living room to make space for him. And guess what I found? In a corner inaccessible to man or beast, the router plug was sitting on the floor. I plugged it in and within ten minutes our Internet was restored.

So, how did the plug get on to the floor? As unlikely as it sounds it seems that one of my children reached for an Easter egg, knocked a small 5.1 music speaker off the shelf, the speaker landed on the plug and knocked it out of the socket. Throughout this a light remained on the router – it’s fed by two sockets – and the corner is inaccessible except for the plug sockets so no one thought to look there.

I told the engineer there was no need to call because I’d fixed the problem. Doubtless, he was impressed. However, I didn’t tell him how I did it 😉

My current reading list for Eve’s War

Madame Fourcade was an amazing woman. Forget de Gaulle, Madame Fourcade was the real leader of the French Resistance. She was the one who rolled up her sleeves and got stuck in when it came to fighting the fascists.

Most of my Eve’s War series is set in Brittany, hence the need to top up my knowledge of that region.

After the war, Ann-Marie Walters established a career in literature and her book is the best written account of an SOE agent’s experiences in France.

“I’m very nervous, but patient. It’s a funny mixture really and you need that for radio work. You need the patience to do the coding and decoding. You need the resourcefulness of nervousness to be able to decide to go on if you think somebody’s listening in (the Gestapo used to listen in to transmissions in vans disguised as Red Cross vehicles) or to cut off and ask for another sked (transmission schedule).” – Yvonne Cormeau.

Yvonne was the ‘fastest finger in France‘. She transmitted Morse code messages at a rate of twenty words a minute (the average was twelve words a minute) and she sent more messages than any other female SOE wireless operator.

https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/yvonne-cormeau/

In 1944, SOE agent Anne-Marie Walters, pictured below, had a narrow escape when travelling by train to Condom via Tarbes. A Gestapo officer approached to search her cases, which contained small arms and demolition equipment. However, a young woman with two babies, unknown to Anne-Marie, but sensing danger, created a fuss over the Gestapo searching her bags. In the commotion, the Gestapo officer didn’t search Anne-Marie’s cases. When he left the carriage, the young woman offered Anne-Marie a smile of understanding. In that moment she had saved Anne-Marie’s life.

On another occasion, Anne-Marie found herself at a bus stop facing a snap search. While one fascist inspected her (false) documents another searched her handbag and pulled out a crumpled ball of toilet paper. Anne-Marie blushed at the sight and the fascist returned the toilet paper to her handbag. That toilet paper contained thirty coded messages. The BBC broadcast these messages at set times during the day. They carried instructions for the Resistance, informing them of arms drops via parachute, details of other networks and most famously of all the timing of the D-Day invasion. The code for that message was the first stanza of Paul Verlaine’s poem “Chanson d’automne”. The first part of the stanza, Les sanglots longs des violons de l’automne (“the long sobs of the violins of autumn”) indicated that the invasion would begin within 24 hours; the second, Blessent mon cœur d’une langueur monotone (“wound my heart with a monotonous languor”) was the specific call to action.

A memorial to the SOE agents of the Wheelwright network in Lapeyrade, Landes. Yvonne Cormeau, Anne-Marie Walters and Yvonne Baseden have featured on my website.

Pictures taken near my home in South Wales this week: Kenfig, Mawdlam, Cefn Cribwr, the Goylake River, Kenfig and Ballas

Women of Courage Heroines of SOE

SOE agent Eileen Mary “Didi” Nearne was born on 15 March 1921 in London to an English father, John, and a Spanish mother, Marie. She was the youngest of four children while her elder sister, Jaqueline, and her brother, Francis, also became SOE agents.

In 1923, the family moved to France where Eileen became fluent in French. After the German invasion in 1940, Eileen and Jacqueline followed the well-worn path to London via Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, Gibraltar and Glasgow, while their parents and brothers remained in Grenoble.

Eileen Nearne

In Britain, the SOE soon identified Eileen’s talents. Initially, she worked as a signals operator decoding secret messages, often written in invisible ink, received from agents in the field.

After a period of training, on 2 March 1944, Eileen arrived via Lysander in Les Lagnys, Saint-Valentin. Her mission was to work as a wireless operator for the Wizard network. She also organised sources of finance for the Resistance. Over five months she transmitted 105 messages, each one sent at enormous personal risk.

Coincidentally, Eileen’s organiser, Jean Savy, returned to Britain on 9 April 1944 on the same aircraft as her sister, Jacqueline, who had spent fifteen successful months in the field. Savy arrived in Britain with important information about the Nazi’s V1 rockets.

In July 1944, the Gestapo detected Eileen’s transmitter and arrested her. A period of barbarity followed, which included crude forms of inhuman treatment. Nevertheless, despite the torture, Eileen convinced the Gestapo that a businessman had hired her to send messages and that, at the time, she remained innocent of his British nationality.

In August 1944, the Gestapo sent Eileen to Ravensbrück concentration camp then on to Silesia. At the camps, the guards forced her into slave labour. However, she remained defiant and, despite more torture, refused.

Jacqueline Nearne

On 13 April 1945, Eileen escaped with two French women. Marching to another camp through the snow and dark they hid in a forest then travelled to Markkleeberg where the S.S. arrested them. However, they managed to fool the S.S. (it’s remarkable how many agents managed to do this) and with the aid of a priest they hid in Leipzig until the liberating Americans arrived a few days later.

It’s ironic that Eileen constantly lied to the Gestapo and, for the most part, the believed her. They regarded her as ‘a silly little French girl who was wasting their time.’ However, when she told the Americans the truth they didn’t believe her and it took some time before they handed her over to the British authorities.

After the war, Eileen suffered from what we now recognise as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Jacqueline cared for her and in 1997 she felt well enough to appear on a Timewatch television programme where she discussed her wartime experiences.

Eileen died in September 2010 aged eighty-nine.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #46

Dear Reader,

A reminder that I have extended my participation in Smashwords’ Authors Give Back sale until 31 May.

All my books are listed as free or 0.99.

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https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/hannahhowe

Many thanks to the readers at Many Books for voting Betrayal the best mystery-thriller for March 🙂

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https://manybooks.net/articles/books-of-the-month-march-2020

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I’m sure all book lovers can identify with this

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My Author of the Week, Grant Leishman

Grant is a very imaginative, multi-genre author. Along with his writing talent, he is also very supportive of his fellow authors. All his books are worthy of your attention, especially Love Beyond, his finest book in my opinion.

https://www.grantleishman.com

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My Pinterest profile. This will become my main social media outlet in the near future.


My latest translation, Victory into Portuguese. Many thanks to Adriana for her wonderful work on this series.

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I’m delighted to see that Estripador is gathering five star reviews on Google Play 🙂

This is one of sixty-six books I have available through Google Play.

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Google Play Hannah Howe

A ship off Pink Bay and Sger Beach this week

Porthcawl Seafront and Rest Bay at seven o’clock in the morning


An excellent podcast from the Paris Institute For Critical Thinking

A Schoolmaster’s War

A wonderful book and a wonderful interview. Harry Ree was a fascinating man, a true hero, although he would probably hate that label. Jonathan Ree has done his father, and the literary world, a great service by producing this book. As I wrote elsewhere, it is a book that should be taught and discussed in schools so that young people can gain an insight into the SOE and its role in the Second World War and, more importantly, learn that heroes and heroines take on many forms. While politicians soak up all the glory it is people like the retired school mistress who sacrificed their lives who deserve our greatest respect.

Saint-Leu-d’Esserent is notable for its 3,000 metres of mushroom caves under the Thiverny plateau. In the summer of 1944, SOE agents made an astonishing discovery in these caves, a discovery that had a significant impact on the war. That revelation will appear in Operation Sherlock, book five in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series.

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In the autumn of 1940 a German arrived at a school in Alsace to suppress the use of the French language. At the end of his ‘lesson’ he ordered the class to shout, “Heil Hitler!”

However, twelve-year-old Colette Fouillette and her friend shouted, “Drei Liter!” (Three litres).

By 1943, Colette was active in the Resistance, delivering messages by bicycle, and she remained active until the Liberation, a shining example of youthful courage.

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Image: View of Église Saint-Martin (Wikipedia)

Women of Courage Heroines of SOE

Yvonne Jeanne de Vibraye Baseden, later known as Yvonne Burney, was born on 20 January 1922 in Paris. Her father, a First World War pilot, crash-landed in France at the home of the Comte de Vibraye. The Comtesse invited him to dinner, which turned into a romantic occasion because he fell in love with the Comte and Comtesse’s daughter. The couple duly married and, at the end of the First World War, lived in France.

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Later, Yvonne’s parents lived in various countries within Europe. She was educated in Britain, France, Poland, Italy and Spain learning several languages as a result.

On 4 September 1940, aged eighteen, Yvonne joined the WAAF as a clerk. From there, she worked for the RAF in intelligence where she captured the SOE’s attention.

Recommend by fellow agent Pearl Witherington, Yvonne joined the SOE on 24 May 1943. On 18 March 1944, aged 22, she became one of the youngest female agents to parachute into France.

Under the code name Odette, Yvonne arrived in the village of Gabarret where she linked up with the Wheelwright network. Travelling to Eastern France, she worked for four months as the wireless operator for the Scholar network under the cover of Mademoiselle Yvonne Bernier, a shorthand typist and secretary.

On 26 June 1944, the Gestapo trapped Yvonne and seven of her colleagues in a cheese factory. They shot her organiser, Baron Gonzagues de St Genies, while Yvonne was arrested and interrogated. War is brutal, but Yvonne’s story reminds us that war as practiced by the fascists plunged unacceptable levels of barbarity.

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Female prisoners at Ravensbrück, 1939

By September, Yvonne was in the notorious Ravensbrück concentration camp. While at the camp, she became ill with tuberculosis and was transferred to the hospital where she remained, with 500 other women, until the closing days of the Second World War when the camp was liberated by the Swedish Red Cross.

The Swedish Red Cross ensured that Yvonne reached Malmö where they deloused her. She spent her first nights of freedom on a mattress on the floor of the Malmö Museum of Prehistory, sleeping under the skeletons of dinosaurs.

After the war, the Allies arrested the SS guards at Ravensbrück, along with the female Aufseherinnen guards. Between 1946 and 1948, sixteen of the accused were found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and were sentenced to death.

In September 1955, Yvonne became the first regular subject of the BBC programme This is Your Life, although later in her life she shunned the limelight. After her second marriage in 1966, as Yvonne Burney, she moved to Portugal before returning to Britain in 1999.

Yvonne died in October 2017 at the age of 95 another example of the remarkable longevity of the surviving SOE female agents.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx