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Violette Szabo

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Title: Violette Szabo  
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Subject: Leo Marks, Ravensbrück concentration camp, Hortense Clews, George Cross, Lise de Baissac
Collection: 1921 Births, 1945 Deaths, British Military Personnel Killed in World War II, British People Executed by Firing Squad, British People Executed in Nazi Concentration Camps, Executed People from Île-De-France, Executed Spies, Female Resistance Members of World War II, Female Wartime Spies, French People Executed by Firing Squad, French People Executed in Nazi Concentration Camps, French Recipients of the George Cross, French Resistance Members, People Executed by Germany by Firing Squad, People from Paris, People Who Died in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, Recipients of the Croix De Guerre (France), Recipients of the Croix De Guerre 1939–1945 (France), Recipients of the Médaille De La Résistance, Recipients of the Resistance Medal, Special Operations Executive Personnel, Spies Who Died in Nazi Concentration Camps, Women in World War II, World War II Spies
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Violette Szabo

Violette Szabo, GC
Violette Reine Elizabeth Szabo, GC
Born 26 June 1921 (1921-06-26)
Paris, France
Died Did not recognize date. Try slightly modifying the date in the first parameter. (aged 23)
KZ Ravensbrück, Nazi Germany
Allegiance United Kingdom, France
Service/branch Special Operations Executive,
First Aid Nursing Yeomanry
Years of service 1941-1945 (FANY) /
1942/43-1945 (SOE)
Rank Ensign, FANY
Unit F Section
Awards    Medaille de la Resistance    
Croix de Guerre   

Violette Reine Elizabeth Szabo, GC, née Bushell, (26 June 1921 – c. 5 February 1945), a British subject, was the daughter of an English father and French mother, and widow of a French army officer killed in action in North Africa in 1942, who served during World War II as an SOE agent on two missions in occupied France. On her second mission she was captured by the Germans, interrogated and tortured, and deported to Germany where she was eventually executed at Ravensbrück concentration camp.


  • Early life 1
  • World War II, marriage and motherhood 2
  • Special Operations Executive F Section agent 3
    • First mission 3.1
    • Second mission 3.2
  • Capture and interrogation 4
  • Ravensbrueck and execution 5
    • Execution 5.1
  • Awards and honours 6
  • Museums and memorials 7
  • Media 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Early life

Violette Szabo was born Violette Reine Elizabeth Bushell in Pont-Remy, Somme, who had met during World War I. The family moved to London, but because of the Depression, Violette and her youngest brother, Dickie, lived with their maternal aunt in Picardy in northern France, until the family was reunited in Stockwell, south London, when Violette was eleven, first at 12 Stockwell Park Walk (now demolished), and then at 18 Burnley Road, Stockwell, where she is commemorated by a Blue Plaque[1] She was a very active and lively girl, enjoying gymnastics, long-distance bicycling and ice-skating, and with four brothers and several male cousins, she was regarded as a tomboy, especially as she was taught by her father to be a good shot.[2] Violette attended school in Brixton, quickly relearning the English she had lost, where she was popular and regarded as exotic due to her ability to speak fluent French,[3] until the age of fourteen when she went to work at a French corsetiere in South Kensington and then at 'Woolworths' in Oxford Street.[4] Her home life was loving, although she often clashed with her strict father - once running away to France after an argument[5] - and the family, excepting her monolingual father, would often converse in French.[6] At the start of World War II, she was working at the perfume counter of Le Bon Marché, a department store in Brixton.

World War II, marriage and motherhood

In early 1940 Violette joined the Land Army and was sent to carry out strawberry picking in Fareham, Hampshire,[7] but she soon returned to London and went to work in an armaments factory in Acton, west London.

She met Adj-chef de la 13eme Demi-brigade de la legion etranges[nb 1] Étienne Szabo, Legion d'honneur, Medaille Militaire, Croix de guerre avec etoile et palme,[8] a French officer of Hungarian descent, at the Bastille Day parade in London in 1940 where Violette had been sent by her mother, accompanied by her friend Winnie Wilson, to bring home a homesick French soldier for dinner. They married at Aldershot Registry Office - Etienne was stationed at Farnborough in Hampshire - on 21 August 1940 after a whirlwind 42-day romance.[9] Violette was 19, Étienne was 31.[10] They enjoyed a week's honeymoon before Etienne set off from Liverpool to fight in the unsuccessful Free French attack on Dakar, Senegal[11] From there Etienne returned to South Africa before seeing action, again against the Vichy French, in the successful Anglo-Free French campaigns in Eritrea and Syria in 1941.[12]

After her marriage, Violette went to work as a switchboard operator for the General Post Office in central London, working throughout the Blitz, but bored by the work, on 11 September 1941 she enlisted in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). She was posted to Leicester for initial training, before being sent to 7 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Training Regiment in Oswestry, Shropshire, for specialised training as a predictor and then attached to 481 Heavy (Mixed) Anti-Aircraft Battery. Then after further training in Anglesey, Gunner Szabo and her unit were posted to Frodsham near Warrington in Cheshire from December 1941 to February 1942. However, Violette found within weeks that she was pregnant, so she left the ATS to return to London for the birth.[13]

Violette took a flat at 36 Pembridge Villas in Notting Hill, London W11, which was to be her home until she left for her second mission to France in June 1944. On 8 June 1942 she gave birth to her daughter, Tania Damaris Desiree Szabo, at St Mary's hospital in Paddington while Etienne was stationed at Bir Hakeim in North Africa. The following day he would take part in a valiant defence against Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps, and then escape with his battalion from the assault of the 15th Panzer Division on 10 June.[14]

Violette sent her baby to childminders, first in Havant, Hampshire, and then in Mill Hill, north London, while she went to work at the aircraft factory in South Modern where her father was now working. Her time there was brief, as she was soon informed of the death in action of her husband. Étienne had died from chest wounds he received leading his men in a diversionary attack on Qaret el Himeimat at the beginning of the Second Battle of El Alamein on 24 October 1942. He had never seen his daughter. It was Étienne's death that made an inconsolable Violette decide to accept when offered the chance to train as a field agent by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), as her best way of fighting the enemy that killed her husband.[15]

Special Operations Executive F Section agent

It is unclear how or why Violette Szabo was recruited by F-Section, as her surviving official file is very thin, but her fluency in French and her service in the ATS probably brought her to the attention of SOE. What is known is that she would have been invited to an interview regarding war work with a Mr. E. Potter, the alias of Selwyn Jepson, the detective novelist, who was F-Section's recruiter. Having satisfied Jepson of her suitability, she was given security clearance on 1 July 1943 and selected for training as a field agent on 10 July.[16] She was also commissioned as a Section Leader into the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, a civilian service often used by SOE as cover for female agents.

After an assessment for fluency in French and a series of interviews, Szabo was sent from 7 to 27 August for initial training to Winterfold House, the training school designated STS 4, and after a moderately favourable report, from there on to Special Training School 24 of Group A at Arisaig in the Scottish Highlands in September and October for paramilitary training. Here she received intensive instruction in fieldcraft, night and daylight navigation, weapons and demolitions. Once again her reports were mixed, but she completed the course well enough to pass, and move on to Group B.[17]

Szabo was sent to the SOE "finishing school" at Beaulieu in Hampshire where she learnt escape and evasion, uniform recognition, communications and cryptography, and had further training in weaponry.[18] The final stage in training was parachute jumping which was taught at Ringway Airport near Manchester. On her first attempt, Szabo badly sprained her ankle and was sent home for recuperation, spending some time in Bournemouth (it was this ankle that was to fail her later in France). She was able to take the parachuting course again and passed with a second class in February 1944.[19]

On 24 January 1944 Szabo made her will, witnessed by Vera Atkins and Major R. A. Bourne Paterson of SOE, naming her mother, Reine, as executrix, and her daughter, Tania, as sole beneficiary.[20]

With reference to her time in training, in his book "Das Reich", Max Hastings comments that Szabo was "adored by the men and women of SOE both for her courage and endless infectious cockney laughter",[21] while Leo Marks remembered her as "A dark-haired slip of mischief....She had a cockney accent which added to her impishness."[22]

First mission

Due to the ankle injury, Szabo's first deployment was delayed, but it was during her second course at Ringway that she first met Philippe Liewer (d. c. 1948). While in London she also socialised with Bob Maloubier, so SOE decided she would work as a courier for Liewer's Salesman circuit. However, the mission was postponed when F Section received a signal from Harry Peuleve's (codename Jean) Author circuit warning that several members of the Rouen-Dieppe group had been arrested, including Claude Malraux (codename Cicero; brother of novelist Andre Malraux) and radio operator Isidore Newman.[23] This extra time meant Szabo could be sent for a refresher course in wireless operation in London, and it was then that Leo Marks, SOE's cryptographer, seeing her struggle with her original French nursery rhyme, gave Szabo his own composition, 'The Life That I Have' as her code poem.[24]

On 5 April 1944 Szabo and Liewer were flown from RAF Tempsford in Bedfordshire in a US B-24 Liberator bomber and parachuted into German-occupied France, near Cherbourg.[25] Her cover was that she was a commercial secretary named Corinne Reine Leroy (the latter two names being her mother's first and maiden names), who was born on 26 June 1921 (her real birthdate) in Bailleul, and who was a resident of Le Havre, which gave her reason to travel to the Restricted Zone of German occupation on the coast.[26]

Under the code name "Louise", which happened to be her nickname (she was also nicknamed "La P'tite Anglaise", as she stood only 5'3" tall),[27][28] she and SOE colleague Philippe Liewer (under the name "Major Charles Staunton"), organiser of the Salesman circuit, tried to assess the damage made by the German arrests, with Szabo traveling to Rouen, where Liewer could not go as a wanted man (both he and Maloubier were on wanted posters with their codenames) and Dieppe to gather intelligence and carry out reconnaissance. It soon became clear that the circuit, which originally involved over 120 members (80 in Rouen and 40 on the coast) had been blown beyond repair. Szabo returned to Paris to brief Liewer, and in the two days before they were due to depart, she bought a dress for Tania, three dresses and a yellow sweater for herself and perfume for her mother and herself.[29] While the destruction of Salesman was a heavy blow to SOE, her reports on the local factories producing war materials for the Germans were important in establishing Allied bombing targets.

She returned to England by Lysander, piloted by Bob Large, DFC of the RAF, on 30 April 1944, landing after a stressful flight in which the plane had been hit by anti-aircraft fire over Chateaudun, and Szabo had been thrown heavily about the body of the plane. Large had turned off the intercom when attacked and did not turn it back on for the rest of the flight, so when the plane landed heavily due to a burst tyre, and he went to get Szabo out, she (thinking they had been shot down and not having seen her blond pilot) let Large have a volley of abuse in French, mistaking him for a German. When she realised what had really happened, he was rewarded with a kiss.[30] Philippe Liewer returned at the same time in another Lysander.

On 24 May 1944 Szabo was promoted to Ensign in the FANY.[31]

Second mission

After two aborted attempts, due to stormy weather on the night of 4/5 June and the abandonment of the intended landing ground on 5th/6th by the Resistance reception committee because of German patrols, Szabo and three colleagues were dropped by parachute from a USAF Liberator flown from RAF Harrington onto a landing field near Sussac on the outskirts of Limoges, early on 8 June 1944 (immediately following D-Day, and Tania Szabo's second birthday). Szabo was part of a four-person team sent to operate in the departement of Haute Vienne with the circuit code-name 'Salesman II', led by her SOE commander Philippe Liewer (now codenamed Hamlet), whose rolled-up Rouen circuit had been 'Salesman', and including Second Lieutenant Jean-Claude Guiet (codenames Claude and Virgile) of the US Army as wireless operator (W/O), and Robert Maloubier (alias Robert 'Bob' Mortier; codenames Clothaire and Paco), Violette and Liewer's friend and comrade, of SOE who was to act as military instructor to the local Maquis, and who had worked as weapons instructor and explosives officer for Liewer on the original Salesman I circuit. For this mission, Szabo's cover was that she was a Mme Villeret, the young widow of an antiques dealer from Nantes.[32]

Upon arrival, she was sent to coordinate the activities of the local Maquis in sabotaging communication lines during German attempts to stem the Normandy landings. When he arrived in the Limousin, Philippe Liewer found the local maquis to be poorly led and less prepared for action than he expected. In order to better coordinate Resistance activity against the Germans, he decided to send his courier, Violette Szabo, as his liaison officer, to the more active maquis of Correze and the Dordogne, led by Jaques Poirier, head of the renamed Digger circuit, who had taken over from Harry Peuleve of the Author circuit, upon the latter's arrest.[33] However, due to poor intelligence gathering by the local Resistance, Liewer was unaware that the 2nd SS Panzer Division was making its slow journey north to the Normandy battlefields through his area.

Capture and interrogation

At 9.30 am on 10 June Szabo set off on her mission, not by bicycle as Liewer would have preferred as less conspicuous, but in a Citroen driven by a young maquis section leader, Jacques Dufour ('Anastasie'). He had insisted upon using the car, even though the Germans had forbidden the use of cars by the French after D-Day, and would drive her half the 100 km of her journey. At her request to Liewer, Szabo was armed with a Sten gun. On their way across the sunlit fields of south central France they picked up Jean Bariaud, a twenty-six-year-old Resistance friend of Dufour, who would keep him company on the return journey. Unfortunately, their car raised the suspicions of German troops at an unexpected roadblock that had been set up to find Sturmbannführer Helmut Kämpfe, a battalion commander of the 2nd SS Panzer Division, who had been captured by the local resistance.[34][nb 2]. When Dufour slowed the car, the unarmed Bariaud was able to escape and later warn the Salesman team of the suspected arrest of his two companions.

When the car stopped, Szabo and Dufour opened fire, and a brief gun battle ensued. Both tried to escape, each providing the other with covering fire, and Dufour was able to get away and hide in a friend's farm. However, Szabo sprained her ankle and was captured when she ran out of ammunition, around midday on 10 June 1944, near Salon-la-Tour.[35] Her captors were most likely from the 1st Battalion of 3rd SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment Deutschland (Das Reich Division) whose commanding officer was the missing Sturmbannfuehrer Kampfe. In R.J. Minney's biography she is described as putting up fierce resistance with her Sten gun, although German documents of the incident record no German injuries or casualties. A recent biography of Vera Atkins, the intelligence officer for the French section of SOE, notes that there was a great deal of confusion about what happened to Szabo—the story was revised four times—and states that the Sten gun incident "was probably a fabrication. But Szabo's most recent biographer, Susan Ottaway, includes the battle in her book, as does Tania Szabo in hers."[21][36][37]

Violette Szabo was transferred to the custody of the Sicherheitsdienst(SD) (SS Security Service) in Limoges, where she was interrogated for four days. She gave her name as "Vicky Taylor", the name she had intended to use if she needed to return to England via Spain. (Her reason for choosing this name is unknown, but it may have been a play on szabo being the Hungarian word for "tailor".)[38] From there, she was moved to Fresnes Prison in Paris and brought to Gestapo headquarters at 84 Avenue Foch for interrogation and torture by the Sicherheitsdienst, who by now knew of her true identity and activities as an SOE agent.

Ravensbrueck and execution

With the Allies driving deep into France and SOE wireless operator Denise Bloch, was entrained with other male and female prisoners, including several SOE agents she knew, for transfer. At some point in the journey, probably outside Chalons-sur-Marne, an Allied air raid caused the guards to temporarily abandon the train allowing Szabo and Bloch to get water from a lavatory to the caged male prisoners in the next carriage, the two women both providing inspiration and a morale boost to the suffering men. When the train reached Rheims, the prisoners were taken by lorries to a large barn for two nights, where Szabo, still tied at the ankle to Bloch, who was in good spirits, was able to wash some of her clothes in rudimentary fashion, and to speak about her experiences to her SOE colleague Henry Peuleve.

From Rheims, via Strasbourg, the prisoners went by train to Saarbruecken and a transit camp in the suburb of Neue Bremm, where hygiene facilities were nonexistent, and food only undigestable bread crusts. After about ten days,[39] Szabo and most of the other women were sent on to Ravensbrück concentration camp, where over 92,000 women were to die during the war. The exhausted women arrived at this notorious camp, a place of disease, starvation and violence, on 25 August 1944 after a terrible eighteen-day journey.

Although she endured hard labour and malnutrition, she helped to save the life of Belgian resistance courier Koenigsburg, where they were forced into harsh physical labour felling trees and clearing rock-hard icy ground for the construction of an airfield. This was during the brutal East Prussian winter, with Szabo dressed only in the summer dress she had been wearing when sent to Germany, and with the women receiving barely any food and sleeping in frozen barracks without blankets.[42] Around 19 or 20 January 1945 the three British agents were recalled to Ravensbrueck and sent to the punishment block where they were kept in solitary confinement and brutally assaulted. They were already in poor physical condition—Rolfe could barely walk—and the abuse finally weakened even Violette Szabo's morale.[43][nb 3]


Violette Szabo was executed in the execution alley at Ravensbrueck, aged twenty-three, on or before 5 February 1945, by shooting in the back of the head by SS-Rottenfuehrer Schult, in the presence of camp commandant Fritz Suhren (who pronounced the death penalty), camp overseer and deputy commandant Johann Schwarzhueber (de), SS-Scharfuehrer Zappe, SS-Rottenfuehrer Schenk (responsible for the crematorium), chief camp doctor Dr Trommer, and dentist Dr Hellinger,[44] along with Denise Bloch and Lilian Rolfe—neither of whom could walk to their deaths—by order of the highest Nazi authorities. Death was pronounced by Trommer, and the bodies were cremated in the camp's crematorium.[nb 4]

Along with Szabo, three other women members of the SOE were also executed at Ravensbrück: Denise Bloch, Lilian Rolfe, and Cecily Lefort, who was murdered in the gas chamber sometime in February 1945. Of SOE's 55 female agents, thirteen were killed in action, twelve by execution, one from typhus in a Nazi concentration camp, and one in hospital of meningitis.

While there is some confusion about the precise circumstances of her execution, Violette Szabo, along with her male and female colleagues who died in the concentration camps, is recorded by the War Office as having been killed in action.

It must be noted that as an agent dressed in civilian clothes operating behind enemy lines, Violette Szabo was regarded by the Germans as a francs-tireur, and therefore she was not protected by the Geneva Convention, and was liable to summary execution.[21] There is no conclusive proof that she was tortured or sexually assaulted by the Germans: her biographer, Susan Ottaway, thinks it unlikely, although the threat of both must have been ever present. However, this does not excuse the dreadful treatment to which she was subjected in captivity, especially at Ravensbrueck, and nor does it detract from the brave conduct that Mme Szabo exhibited before and after her arrest while on active duty.

Awards and honours

ribbon bar

Szabo was the second woman to be awarded the

  • Violette Szabó GC site built by Tania Szabo, the daughter of Violette
  • Violette Szabo Museum
  • Special Operations Executive Agents in France - Nigel Perrin's profile of Violette Szabo
  • Special Forces Roll Of Honour website
  • Carve Her Name with Pride at the Internet Movie Database
  • Les Fernandez - Daily Telegraph obituary of the man who trained Violette Szabo

External links

  1. ^ Plaque, unveiled by the Greater London Council in 1981, reads: "Violette Szabo, GC, 1921-1945, Secret Agent, lived here. SHE GAVE HER LIFE FOR THE FRENCH RESISTANCE.
  2. ^ Ottaway, Susan, 'Violette Szabo: The Life that I Have...' & 2002 pp10-14.
  3. ^ Ottaway, p11.
  4. ^ Ottaway, pp15-16.
  5. ^ Ottaway, pp13-14 & 16.
  6. ^ Ottaway, p9.
  7. ^ Ottaway, p19.
  8. ^ "Violette Szabo and Etienne Szabo". 24 October 1942. Retrieved 27 February 2014. 
  9. ^ Ottaway, pp22-25.
  10. ^ Grehan, John; Mace, Martin (2012). Unearthing Churchill's Secret Army: The Official List of Soe Casualties and Their Stories. Casemate Publishers.  
  11. ^ Ottaway, pp26-7.
  12. ^ Ottaway, pp28-29.
  13. ^ Ottaway, pp31-35.
  14. ^ Ottaway, p39-40.
  15. ^ Ottaway, pp40-43.
  16. ^ Ottaway, pp47-49.
  17. ^ Ottaway, pp53-60.
  18. ^ Ottaway, pp61-63.
  19. ^ Ottaway, pp63-65.
  20. ^ Ottaway, pp81-82.
  21. ^ a b c  
  22. ^ Marks, Leo, 'Between Silk and Cyanide', quoted in Ottaway, p79.
  23. ^ Ottaway, pp77-79.
  24. ^ Ottaway, pp80-81.
  25. ^ Ottaway, pp84-85.
  26. ^ Ottaway, p82.
  27. ^ Binney, Marcus (2002) 'The Women who Lived for Danger: The women agents of SOE in the Second World War',p220
  28. ^ M.R.D.Foot, 'Szabo, Violette Reine Elizabeth (1921.1945)', rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press 2004; online edn, January 2011
  29. ^ Ottaway, pp84-94.
  30. ^ Ottaway, pp92-93.
  31. ^ Ottaway, p95.
  32. ^ Ottaway, p105.
  33. ^ Ottaway, pp101-105.
  34. ^ a b "Violette Szabó 1921-1944 - a brief history".  
  35. ^ Ottaway, pp105-110.
  36. ^ Helm, Sarah (2005). A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII. Little & Brown. p. 456. 
  37. ^ Ottaway, ibid; Szabo, Tania, "Young, Brave and Beautiful", in passim.
  38. ^ Ottaway, Susan (2002). Violette Szabo. Naval Institute Press. pp. 110, 115 & 173 (citation for Croix de Guerre, 16 September 1944).  
  39. ^ Ottaway, p129.
  40. ^ Minney, R.J. (1956). Carve Her Name With Pride. pp. 149–158.  
  41. ^ "Violette: A secret story of wartime bravery". Retrieved 9 September 2010. 
  42. ^ Ottaway, p143-146.
  43. ^ Binney, pp241.244
  44. ^ Ottaway, pp152-154; from deposition of Schwarzhueber recorded by Vera Atkins 13 March 1946.
  45. ^ "George Cross facts". Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  46. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37820. p. 6127. 13 December 1946. Retrieved 27 May 2008.
  47. ^ Ottaway, p158; nb Odette Sansom, GC, MBE, Ld'H and Peter Churchill, DSO, CdeG did not marry hntil 1947 (dissolved 1956).
  48. ^
  49. ^ "The Violette Szabo GC Museum". Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  50. ^ "Opening of the Violette Szabo museum". 24 June 2000. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  51. ^ "RCM Prizes available in 2008" (PDF). Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  52. ^ "Unveiling of the Violette Szabo mural at Stockwell". 15 January 2001. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  53. ^ "Violett Szabo sculpture". Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  54. ^ "Secret agents' memorial unveiled". BBC. 4 October 2009. Retrieved 5 October 2009. 
  55. ^ "Memorial Plaque, Violette Szabo, Lambeth Town Hall". Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  56. ^ "". 24 October 1942. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  • Minney, R. J. (1956) Carve Her Name with Pride: The Story of Violette Szabo. London: Newnes
  • Ottaway, Susan (2003) Violette Szabo: The Life That I Have. Pen & Sword Books ISBN 0-85052-976-X
  • Szabó, Tania (2007) Young Brave and Beautiful: The Missions of Special Operations Executive Agent, Lieutenant Violette Szabó, George Cross, Croix de Guerre avec Etoile de bronze, St Helier: distributed by Tania Szabó,[56] ISBN 1-905095-20-1. 496 pp, index, bibliography, plus 30 pages of illustrations.
  • Foot, M.R.D. "Szabo, Violette Reine Elizabeth", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004: rev. edn 2008)
  • Helm, Sarah (2005) A Life in Secrets: The Story of Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE
  • Binney, Marcus (2002) The Women Who Lived for Danger: The Women Agents of SOE in the Second World War


  1. ^ Senior Warrant Officer (equivalent to Sergeant-Major in British Army) in the 13th Half-Brigade of the Foreign Legion
  2. ^ Tania Szabo suggests in her semi-biography of her mother, 'Young, Brave and Beautiful', p389, that the troops may have been SS-Felfgendarmerie from Salon-Le-Tour who were protecting 'Das Reich's' rear
  3. ^ There is some evidence, but no proof, that Szabo may have been raped while in German custody, but if she had been, it would have been contrary to usual SS, SD and Gestapo practice (for all their individual and collective crimes, the men of these organisations regarded themselves as professionals with, however perverted, a sense of honour; see Helm and Binney, p431
  4. ^ Mary Lindell, an escape line organiser also imprisoned in Ravensbrueck, believed the three women agents were hanged, as was the usual practice in the camp, and their clothes distributed to other prisoners (see Barry Wynne (1961) No Drums...No Trumpets: The Story of Mary Liddell, p253), but Vera Atkins's detailed investigations, including interrogations of Suhren, Schwatzheuber and others who were involved in the killings, established the official version of execution by shooting in the back of the neck;


Howard Brenton's play Hitler Dances caused some controversy by depicting Szabo as more of a real and vulnerable woman, rather than the heroic, patriotic archetype of Carve Her Name with Pride.

The 2009 video game Velvet Assassin by Replay Studios is inspired by Szabo's life as an allied spy during the Second World War, with the protagonist sharing her first name.

Szabo's wartime activities in German-occupied France were dramatised in the film Carve Her Name with Pride, starring Virginia McKenna and based on the 1956 book of the same name by R. J. Minney. Whilst in the SOE, she met Leo Marks, codes officer of the SOE, who gave her what is now thought of as the definitive World War II poem code, The Life That I Have.

Szabo's daughter, Tania Szabo, wrote a reconstruction of her two 1944 missions into the most dangerous areas in France with flashbacks to her growing up. Author Jack Higgins wrote the foreword and US-French radio-operator, Jean-Claude Guiet, who had accompanied her on the mission in the Limousin, wrote the introduction. On 15 November 2007, at the launch of the book, Young Brave and Beautiful: The Missions of Special Operations Executive Agent Lieutenant Violette Szabo, at The Jersey War Tunnels, the Lieutenant Governor of Jersey said of her, "She's an inspiration to those young people today doing the same work with the risk of the same dangers". Odette Churchill GC said, "She was the bravest of us all."


There is a memorial to Violette Szabo in Le Clos, close to where the Salesman II team landed on 8 June 1944. She is named on the memorial to the SOE agents who were killed in France at Valencay, and also on the memorial to the SOE agents who flew from England but did not return at RAF Tempsford.

At the entrance to Lambeth Town Hall there is a plaque commemorating Violette's residence[55] in that borough.

In 2008, a bronze bust of Szabo by sculptor Karen Newman was unveiled at the Albert Embankment of the River Thames, opposite Lambeth Palace.[53][54]

There is a mural dedicated to Violette Szabo in Stockwell, South London, painted in 2001: Stockwell War Memorial, Stockwell Road. Painted on the exterior of the entrance to a deep level shelter, this mural was executed by Brian Barnes (with the assistance of children from Stockwell Park School). It features Stockwell's famous people such as Violette Szabo and Vincent Van Gogh. It also commemorates the local people who gave their life in the war.[52]

The Royal College of Music offers an annual award called the Violette Szabo GC Memorial Prize for pianists who accompany singers.[51]

The Jersey War Tunnels has a permanent exhibition room dedicated to Violette Szabo.[34]

The Violette Szabo GC Museum[48] is located in the cottage in Wormelow Tump, Herefordshire,[49] that Violette's English cousins formerly owned, and that Violette would visit before the war to enjoy walks in the surrounding hills. She also stayed at the farm while she was recuperating from her ankle injury and between her two missions to France. Tania Szabo attended the museum's opening in 2000, as did Virginia McKenna, Leo Marks and members of SOE.[50]

There is a blue plaque on the wall of the house where Violette Szabo grew up in Burnley Road, Stockwell.

Museums and memorials

[47] Before her third birthday, both of Tania Szabo's parents were killed in action during World War II, and both were awarded the French

The Croix de guerre avec etoile de bronze was awarded by the French government in 1947 and the Médaille de la Résistance in 1973. As one of the SOE agents who died for the liberation of France, Lieutenant Violette Szabo, FANY, is listed on the Valençay SOE Memorial.

St. James's Palace, S.W.1. 17 December 1946 First Aid Nursing Yeomanry). Madame Szabo volunteered to undertake a particularly dangerous mission in France. She was parachuted into France in April, 1944, and undertook the task with enthusiasm. In her execution of the delicate researches entailed she showed great presence of mind and astuteness. She was twice arrested by the German security authorities but each time managed to get away. Eventually, however, with other members of her group, she was surrounded by the Gestapo in a house in the southwest of France. Resistance appeared hopeless but Madame Szabo, seizing a Sten-gun and as much ammunition as she could carry, barricaded herself in part of the house and, exchanging shot for shot with the enemy, killed or wounded several of them. By constant movement, she avoided being cornered and fought until she dropped exhausted. She was arrested and had to undergo solitary confinement. She was then continuously and atrociously tortured but never by word or deed gave away any of her acquaintances or told the enemy anything of any value. She was ultimately executed. Madame Szabo gave a magnificent example of courage and steadfastness.

[46] and read:London Gazette The citation was published in the [45]

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