Special Agent Seductress - Noreen Riols

Discussion in 'SOE & OSS' started by Jedburgh22, Sep 20, 2014.

  1. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Special agent seductress: Her hush-hush wartime mission was to bewitch our trainee spies into spilling national secrets. Now, 70 years on, she tells her gripping story
    • Noreen Rois was in Churchill's secret WWII Special Operations Executive
    • She would seduce trainee spies near HQ at Beaulieu estate in Hampshire
    • If they revealed too much to her, they would fail final stage of their training
    • Now 88, great-grandmother of nine tells story after revelation of 'Agent Fifi'
    • Exploits under her given name Marie Collard released in files this week
    [SIZE=.9em]PUBLISHED:[/SIZE] 22:22, 19 September 2014 | [SIZE=.9em]UPDATED:[/SIZE] 22:22, 19 September 2014

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    Standing on the hotel terrace, gazing out across the moonlit sea, 18-year-old Noreen Riols flirtatiously accepted a cigarette from the handsome Dane standing next to her. It was 1943, and, with World War II approaching its most critical phase, the British Secret Service was training dozens of Allied agents to send on missions behind enemy lines.
    Having just completed six months of intensive training, the dashing would-be spy who succumbed to young Noreen’s charms at the Royal Bath Hotel in Bournemouth that night had no idea that she was, in fact, his final test before being sent on active service.
    She had been sent there by his superior officers to see how easily he would talk.

    Honeytrap: Noreen Rois was in Churchill's secret Special Operations Executive - but her job was not to deceive foreign spies but British ones, testing them to see whether they would spill secrets to a pretty face

    Noreen was one of several honeytraps — an agente provocatrice — employed by Winston Churchill’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the war. Their existence was in the spotlight this week, when newly released wartime records revealed the work of glamorous ‘Agent Fifi’, whose job it was to test out agents.
    Fifi was just one of around half a dozen bright, quick-witted and beautiful young women handpicked to work as decoys during spy training.


    And that number included Noreen, now an 88-year-old great-grandmother of nine living just outside of Paris. She is believed to be the last surviving member of the tiny group of stunning girls stationed, out of sight, in a cottage in the grounds of Beaulieu — the Hampshire estate of the Montagu family, where the SOE held its so-called ‘finishing school’ for spies.
    ‘We lived a lie for much of the war,’ says Noreen, who was born to British parents in Malta, where her father was serving in the Royal Navy, and moved to London as a child.
    ‘It was thrilling and exciting work, but sometimes I felt sorry for the poor men we were sent to target.’

    Secrets: Now an 88-year-old great-grandmother, Noreen remembers her service with mixed feelings

    One was the Dane. Having completed his arduous training — including how to react under torture, how to live in the wild, how to make bombs and how to kill with his bare hands — he’d been taken out by his senior officer on the pretext of being treated to an end-of-training dinner.
    Noreen, meanwhile, was waiting in the wings, dressed up as best she could manage with make-up and perfume in scarce supply and ready to act out the story she and the senior officer had agreed on in advance.
    Her modus operandi was to stroll into the lounge while the pair were having pre-dinner drinks, pretending to be an old friend of the officer’s.
    ‘I’d be invited to sit down and join them for a drink or two,’ she recalls, ‘and then the officer would invite me for dinner.’
    At the last minute, however, he’d be called away by an urgent telephone call, leaving the agent and Noreen dining alone together.
    ‘If I could get the man in question out onto the terrace on a moonlit night, I found he would usually talk,’ she says, mischievously.
    And that’s exactly what the clearly smitten Dane — described by Noreen as an utterly charming ‘gorgeous blond Adonis’ — did.
    ‘We were looking out to sea,’ she says. ‘He became quite sentimental, talking about life and the war and home.
    ‘He asked if he could see me again the following Sunday for a drink and I agreed, knowing I couldn’t possibly meet him.
    ‘Of course, then it was easy to ask him what his plans were, what his movements were. He told me that he was going to Denmark. It was a small but fatal mistake.’
    The evening ended with a gentle kiss on the Dane’s cheek but, back at Beaulieu the following morning, he found himself face-to-face with Noreen once more, being asked if he recognised her.
    ‘He realised straightaway what had happened,’ she says.
    ‘He was absolutely furious. He called me a bitch. I’ll never forget the look of horror that I had betrayed him. It really affected me. I felt terrible.’
    Knowing she had quite possibly ruined the man’s career as a spy, she was consoled by a senior officer who told her: ‘If he can’t resist a pretty face over here, he certainly won’t be able to over there. And it won’t only be his own life that’s at risk.’

    Training ground: British spies would be put through their paces at the Beaulieu estate in Hampshire

    Even though she knew she was playing an invaluable role in the war effort, Noreen admits it took its toll. ‘I think it was then that I realised that everything I did was a lie,’ she says. ‘I lied to my mother — I told her I was working for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
    ‘I lied to my friends. I lied to everyone I met outside SOE. I couldn’t tell anyone the truth. It was a strange life and we weren’t given any training for it. We were just told to sign the Official Secrets Act and to keep our mouths shut. And we did.’
    Educated at the French Lycee in London, Noreen was fluent in French, Spanish and German as well as English by the time she received her call-up papers in 1942.

    He realised straightaway what had happened... He was absolutely furious. He called me a bitch. I’ll never forget the look of horror that I had betrayed him. It really affected me. I felt terrible

    Offered the choice of working in a munitions factory or joining the Navy as a Wren, Noreen chose the latter — because of their ‘lovely hats and black stockings’ — but found herself being quietly taken first to the Foreign Office, and then to SOE’s headquarters in Baker Street, where she was told not to ask any questions.
    ‘No one but no one must know what you do here,’ an Army captain told her.
    She began work at the SOE’s F-Section — F for France — working as a bilingual secretary, helping prepare messages to be broadcast to France each evening by the BBC.
    She also typed up agents’ reports when they returned from the field. But it was her work at Beaulieu, acting as a decoy, which was the most challenging.
    ‘The foreign agents were easier targets because they were often lonely and away from home and they became sentimental,’ says Noreen. ‘British agents were the best at keeping quiet.
    ‘However much I flirted with them, they’d be absolutely mute, even if I got them out onto the terrace. I remember one of them once told me he was on a boring old course for the war effort and, another time, an agent said he was a travelling toothpaste salesman, which was hilarious because there was no toothpaste around at the time.

    Provocatrice: The exploits of agent Marie Chilver (pictured in her later years) were declassified this week by the National Archives in Kew. She died in 2007 and was thought to have been one of the first spies of her kind

    ‘You had to clean your teeth with salt or soot.’
    Aside from her decoy work, Noreen also used to pass messages to trainee agents, arranging to rendezvous with them in various locations around Bournemouth.
    She says: ‘They had to learn to do it without being noticed. I’d be told that at a certain time there’d be a man in the Pier Gardens reading a newspaper.
    ‘If it was all clear, I’d sit down on the bench there, without any sign of recognition between us, and then he’d leave his newspaper and I’d pick it up casually and read it. There’d usually be a message hidden in a clue in the crossword.’
    Other agents would be given a description of her and ordered to follow her without giving themselves away. Noreen recalls taking those she clocked on a merry dance around the lingerie section of the local department store.

    Inconspicuous: Noreen would set up secret meetings along the seafront in wartime Bournemouth, pictured

    Hidden away in the vast grounds at Beaulieu, Noreen shared a cottage with two other decoys, older women she knew as Dorothy and Jean.
    ‘She believes there were six of them altogether, although they were sometimes kept apart for security reasons.
    ‘We laughed a lot,’ she says. ‘It was serious work, but we lived each day at a time.
    ‘We used to share make-up and hairpins. We always knew one of us was going out as a decoy because we’d be dressing up.’

    Hugh Dalton (pictured) established the SOE, whose mission was to wreak havoc behind enemy lines

    She does not remember Marie Chilver — the so-called ‘Agent Fifi’ whose name appears in war records put online by the National Archives in Kew this week — and says she only heard her mentioned in 2000, when the earliest SOE files were opened and her own name became public.
    It’s believed Chilver, who died in 2007, may have been one of the first, helping to formulate the honeytraps and come up with the ‘chance encounter’ strategy which Noreen used.
    More than one decoy was needed, says Noreen, because they were often replaced at short notice, especially if they became romantically entangled with any of the men around them.
    It nearly happened to her. Towards the end of the war, aged 19, Noreen fell in love with an established agent 12 years older who’d just come back from a secret mission.
    ‘He came to Beaulieu to talk to some of the trainee agents and it was love at first sight,’ she says. ‘And then there was a little cocktail party which we were invited to.
    ‘He was wonderful, but we only had three months together before he was sent overseas again.’
    They said goodbye during a final lunch at a Chinese restaurant in London’s Soho. Unable to discuss his mission, they talked about their plans for the future. Then, without any emotion, they said goodbye.
    ‘I never saw him again,’ says Noreen. ‘He didn’t return from his mission.’
    It was only in 2002, at a reunion dinner, that she found out her lover had been parachuted into Germany but had never returned.
    She has never found out how he died, but talks of being left with a ‘little cameo of a perfect love’.
    In 1945, after the Allies declared victory in Europe, Noreen was transferred to London and was about to leave for Burma to help out with the war effort in the Far East when the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bringing the war to an end.
    Afterwards, Noreen worked for the French Service at the BBC, where she met her French husband, journalist Jacques Riols, who had fought against the Nazis in the First French Army.



    Mischief: British agents would be given false German documents and sent to sabotage crucial infrastructure

    They married and moved to France in 1959, where she raised her five children and wrote several romantic novels.
    It was not until 2000, when her own files became public, that her family became aware of the astonishing part Noreen had played in the war.
    Two months ago, Noreen was presented with the French Legion D’Honneur, but insists her sacrifice was nothing compared to others’.
    ‘I have wonderful memories of playing my part as a decoy,’ she says, ‘but there were others who did far more than I did.
    ‘It’s important we keep their memory alive.
  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  3. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    A very good account of the procedures which were put in place to ensure the utmost "quality assurance" of SOE operatives for the challenges of the field.

    I remember an SOE survivor's account,Steven might recall his name,when asked the basic rules of survival,declared;

    Don't get involved with women.

    Don't use the telephone.

    Don't reveal where you stay overnight......unfortunately the Achilles Heel of many who fell into the hands of the enemy.

    Incidentally,whether it was a myth or not, it was said that the Russian KGB put their agents through the same screening...resisting seduction by a planted beauty...certainly the KGB caught a few of our people,postwar, who possessed attractive security clearances and who could not resist a planted homosexual relationship.
  4. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Noreen was employed by the Training section whereas Marie Chilver was with SOE's Security Section, her alias there was Fifi and her designation Special Agent No1, she was targeted at both male and female agents, though sexual attraction may have played a part in her techniques she seems to have gained confidences by offers of help and offering sympathy.
  5. Bernard85

    Bernard85 WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    good day jedburgh22.a very senior member.yesterday.10:08am.re:special agent seductress-noreen riols,a most interesting post,she did a very risky job.wonderfull she had a great life in peacetime.thank you for posting,regards bernard85
  6. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Life in pictures of the secret agent seductress

    Friend offers insight into Fifi, the glamorous wartime agent who beguiled new recruits

    Licensed to thrill: Christine Chilver, Britain's Second World War special agent. Photo: PAUL TONGE

    By Anita Singh, and Rayyan Sabet-Parry

    6:30AM BST 21 Sep 2014

    In her glamorous ball gown, the young blonde looks like a 1940s film star. In fact, these are pictures of Fifi, the British secret agent whose Second World War exploits passed into legend.

    After decades of speculation about her existence, the National Archives finally disclosed Fifi’s identity last week. She was Christine Chilver, a striking blonde whose “unusual gifts of courage and intelligence” marked her out for a role so secret it was known at only the highest level.

    The photographs, handed to The Sunday Telegraph by a friend of Miss Chilver, show a young, alluring woman who would pose as a French journalist for the Special Operations Executive and befriend agents-in-training while they were on covert exercises, trying to trick them into revealing their true identities.

    They also offer a scrapbook on her life outside the service, posing proudly with her bicycle as a girl, riding a horse in fancy dress with a couple of “cavaliers”, and indulging in her love of animals.


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    Fifi’s job involved testing would-be British agents from the SOE’s “finishing school” at Beaulieu by turning up unannounced while they were engaged on 96-hour training missions in towns and cities around the country.
    The rendezvous point was usually a hotel bar. Over drinks, the lonely agents – often from the Continent and suffering from homesickness – would blow their cover and confide in the sympathetic woman claiming to be a French journalist.
    One official report noted that her looks were perhaps “too striking and foreign for English tastes” but suitable for Beaulieu students, who were mostly from the Continent. London-born Chilver was half-British and half-Latvian, and her education – first at a German school in Riga, then at the Sorbonne – gave her a distinctly European air.
    After leaving the service, Chilver lived with her companion, Jean 'Alex’ Felgate, a fellow SEO agent, from the 1950s until her death in 2007 aged 86. They bought a converted cider barn in the Forest of Dean and devoted their lives to tending its many acres, which they turned into an animal sanctuary.
    Chilver let few people into her life. In her will, she asked to be cremated “without ceremony” and Felgate was the only mourner.
    One of her few friends was Janice Cutmore, who cared for the couple in their final years. When Felgate died in 2011, she left part of her estate and all her wartime mementoes to Mrs Cutmore.
    “It was an isolated house and they liked to be away from everybody. All their photographs were in an album, and the only ones on show were of their animals,” Mrs Cutmore said.
    “Christine knew her mind and nothing would change it. But she was fair and when you got to know her she was lovely. I started off as their cleaner, but when Christine came out of hospital after a hip operation they gave her a carer and, Christine being Christine, she was not having any of it. So I asked if she would like me to look after her and she said yes.
    “Alex told us a bit about Christine’s work after she died. She said Christine would go to a pub all dressed up and see which one of the new recruits would say, 'Guess what I do for a living’.”
    Jonathan Cole of the National Archives said Fifi became “a legend of SOE, a symbol of seduction – not surprising, since she’s said to have bedded trainee agents to find out whether they talked in their sleep”.
    Chilver’s reports detail nothing of the sort, and appear to show that flirtation over drinks or dinner was enough to get the agents spilling their secrets.
    As part of her cover as a supposed journalist she wrote an article for Housewife magazine about the differences between British and European men.
    European men like a woman to be a woman, she wrote. “So make a routine of the little things. Keeping your smile fresh and the seams of your stockings straight. Sitting down with poise. Always walking, instead of striding along with swinging arms.”
    Beneath the strong exterior, Chilver had family difficulties. She sent all earnings from her “very slender bank balance” to her deaf elder sister and ailing mother in Sweden, where they had fled when the Russian army invaded Latvia.
    She published a book about her love for animals, which included oblique references to the war years. “Animals are magnificent teachers; they try so hard to make us behave in a manner of which we need not be ashamed,” she wrote.
    “As a child I used to listen to our animals just as I listened to adult conversation. The little girl is now an old woman. She has lived to see some of the greatest horrors of all time.”
  7. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    Fascinating stories - brave talented women, but it was an unpleasant job.
  8. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    JimHerriot likes this.

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