Women of SOE

Discussion in 'SOE & OSS' started by Gage, Feb 12, 2006.

  1. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek MOD

    Hi everybody.
    I'm new and just learning about forums. I wondered what people thought about women being used as agents for SOE. I know a lot didn't survive the war, as they were denounced and then murdered at camps like Ravensbruck. Was it worth it? Did they make a difference?
    I would much like to hear people's thoughts on this subject. Cheers.
     
  2. angie999

    angie999 Very Senior Member

    Give us some reasons for sending men, but not women.

    Us girlies do not always need men to protect us you know.
     
  3. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek MOD

    I wasn't being sexest. I so admire the unbounded courage and fortitude of all the SOE operatives and especially the women. But the 1940s were a different era than today, woman were just beginning to come into their own within the armed forces and on the home front. Was the cost too high?
    I know what the term 'total war' means but through various deceptions, betrayal and lax security many people lost their lives unnecessarily.
    Four women agents, Andree Borrel, Vera Leigh, Diana Rowden and Sonya Olschanezky were murdered at Natzweiler in July of 44 with a lethel injection of phenol. Under Hitler's 'night and fog' order, these four women were wiped off the face of the earth.
     
  4. angie999

    angie999 Very Senior Member

    I think that it is questioinable whether some of SOE's agents, men and women, were adequately trained and fit for their role, but in terms of total war losses the cost was not exceptional.
     
  5. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek MOD

    Any loss is exceptional. I hope that these women and men managed to shorten the war or to save lives by their bravery.
     
  6. No.9

    No.9 Senior Member

    Hello Gage, with the exception of ‘turned’ agents and one or two others, SOE agents were volunteers. They couldn’t send just anybody to make up the numbers as even if they might be considered not as valuable as others, they almost all operated in networks and therefore were in positions of great responsibility. For sure they all knew the risks.

    There was certainly nothing new about women in espionage nor women meeting brutal ends. In terms of all women in covert operations, they were probably in the minority when those in Resistance and Partisan movements throughout Europe are considered.

    No.9
     
  7. Herroberst

    Herroberst Senior Member

    </div><div class='quotemain'>There was certainly nothing new about women in espionage nor women meeting brutal ends[/b]

    Just ask Claudius' grandmother...I think women were essential to the War effort and make excellent operatives.

    </div><div class='quotemain'>Us girlies do not always need men to protect us you know.[/b]

    Gotta watch out for those women wielding Uzis
     
  8. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek MOD

    Hi No.9 & Herr Oberst.
    I also think that women make great operatives, especially in F section of SOE. Most French men of certain ages were being sent to Germany to make up the short fall in war production. Therefore woman could move around to different areas within France without arousing suspicion of the occupying forces.
    I suppose we'll never really know what it was like in those dark days. To volunteer to help your own country is natural. Could I have done that job in those circumstances?
     
    76Habs likes this.
  9. marek_pk

    marek_pk Senior Member

    I would have said that women operatives were essential and did make a difference.

    They would have gathered information that men could not have or would have found very difficult to gather.

    I am currently reading about one woman SOE opearative who even saved the lives of a few men, Christine Granville (Polish Born - Krystyna Skarbek)

    Marek
     
  10. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    (marek_pk @ Feb 14 2006, 11:02 PM) [post=45854]I would have said that women operatives were essential and did make a difference.

    They would have gathered information that men could not have or would have found very difficult to gather.

    I am currently reading about one woman SOE opearative who even saved the lives of a few men, Christine Granville (Polish Born - Krystyna Skarbek)

    Marek
    [/b]

    Nancy Wake is another prime example. (a high profile example I must admit)

    Nancy Wake was born in Wellington, New Zealand on 30 August 1912. She lived and was was educated in Sydney. In 1932 Wake married a French businessman, Henri Fiocca. In 1940, she joined the French resistance movement. Between 1940 and 1942 she worked manning the dangerous escape routes through France and helped save the lives of hundreds of Allied Troops.

    Code-named the "White Mouse" by the Gestapo, Nancy Wake is one of the most decorated women of the Second World War. She received the George Medal, 1939–45 Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal, British War Medal 1939–45, French Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, French Croix de Guerre with Star and two Palms, US Medal for Freedom with Palm and French Medaille de la Resistance for her courageous endeavours. Wakes' medals are on display in the Second World War gallery at the Australian War Memorial.

    View attachment 1524

    Nancy Wake, then 31, became one of 39 women and 430 men in the French Section of the British Special Operations Executive which worked with local resistance groups to sabotage the Germans in the occupied territories.
    She was trained at a British Ministry of Defense camp in Scotland in survival skills, silent killing, codes and radio operation, night parachuting, plastic explosives, Sten guns, rifles, pistols and grenades. She and the other women recruited by the SOE were officially assigned to the First Aid Nursing Yeomantry and the true nature of their work remained a closely guarded secret until after the war.
     
  11. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek MOD

    Thanks Marek and Spidge.
    Let me know how you get on with your book Marek, I don't know much about Christine Granville. Another book if you're interested is 'Flames in the field' by Rita Kramer, a very good book about four SOE women in France.
    I have read about Nancy Wake, an exceptional woman indeed. Odette Samson (Churchill) is also a high profile example. Her life was saved because she lied and said she was related to Winston Churchill eventhough her husband was of no relation to the British PM. Picture of Andree Borrell, codename Denise.
     
  12. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek MOD

    For anyone in the UK. 'Carve Her Name with Pride' is on BB2 at 1.05pm today. It's about a female SOE agent called Violette Szabo, it's based on a true story. Good film but I'll be at work, doh! :mellow:
     
  13. Kitty

    Kitty Very Senior Member

    I'd just like to make an observation from what i have seen of life (A not very long life compared to others here) When most men go to war, they have trouble being other than a soldier. Some are well adapted to being something they aren't to get the job doen (as in spy). But a women can be so many thins at once, and when riled she can be quite vicious that in the end i believe the women SOE agents were possibly the most effective in their own areas of expertise. Why not use women in enemy territory if they can be as effective and as lethal as some of the SOE ladies?
    :D
     
  14. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    Virtual G.I. Janes in front line positions?
     
  15. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek MOD

    I'd just like to make an observation from what i have seen of life (A not very long life compared to others here) When most men go to war, they have trouble being other than a soldier. Some are well adapted to being something they aren't to get the job doen (as in spy). But a women can be so many thins at once, and when riled she can be quite vicious that in the end i believe the women SOE agents were possibly the most effective in their own areas of expertise. Why not use women in enemy territory if they can be as effective and as lethal as some of the SOE ladies?
    :D

    I think that to a certain extent that's true. But it comes down to the individual. Heard of 'The White Rabbit'?
     
  16. Kitty

    Kitty Very Senior Member

    Matrix? ;)
    I know it comes down to the individual, i certainly couldn't be an SOE operative.
    But remember the saying, the female of the species is more deadly than the male. It is certainly true.
     
  17. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek MOD

    Matrix? ;)
    I know it comes down to the individual, i certainly couldn't be an SOE operative.
    But remember the saying, the female of the species is more deadly than the male. It is certainly true.

    In the case of certain spiders, that's very true.;)
     
  18. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek MOD

    For those of you who haven't heard of The White Rabbit. A bit of info-
    Wing Commander F.F.E Yeo-Thomas (George Cross) was an English Frenchman, having English parents but spending nearly all his adult life in France. He joined SOE in 1942 and soon became a leading member of RF Section.
    In 1943 he carried out two daring missions into France, trying to organise the Resistance. In his third mission into France, against advice and with reports that the Resistance had been infiltraited, he went to help a captured friend. Three weeks later he was betrayed.
    In captivity he was subjected to the most appalling treatment. In spite of being tortured he did not reveal a single secret to his Gestapo interrogators.
    He was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, as well as others, and he had to swap identities with a corpse in the camp hospital to escape execution. In the last days of the war, he escaped and made it to Allied lines.
     

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  19. Kitty

    Kitty Very Senior Member

  20. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek MOD

    Wow :eek:

    Wow, indeed.
    A very brave man. The torture he went thru was horrible.:mad:
     

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