Spirit of Resistance: The Life of SOE Agent Harry Peulevé, DSO MC

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Spirit of Resistance: The Life of SOE Agent Harry Peuleve, Dso MC by Nigel Perrin

Your rating has been recorded. Write a review Rate this item: 1 2 3 4 5. Preview this item Preview this item. Allow this favorite library to be seen by others Keep this favorite library private. Find a copy in the library Finding libraries that hold this item The story of an exceptional SOE agent and Maquis leader. Extraordinary ordeals of courage and escape during two missions in Nazi-held France.

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Read more Reviews User-contributed reviews Add a review and share your thoughts with other readers. Be the first. Add a review and share your thoughts with other readers. Great Britain. Intelligence officers -- Great Britain -- Biography. Clothed in rags, their faces black with dirt and their hair matted, they had withstood torture and interrogation only to find themselves huddled together, freezing as their death sentences were read to them.

The third spy, year-old Violette Szabo , was still strong enough to walk. The Germans would save her for last, forcing her to watch as her two friends were made to kneel.


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  • Spirit of Resistance: The Life of SOE Agent Harry Peuleve, Dso MC!

An SS sergeant drew a pistol. Szabo went to her knees, taking the hands of her friends. How had it come to this? Then she met Etienne Szabo , a charming, year-old officer with the French Foreign Legion, at a Bastille Day parade, and they married five weeks later. He would posthumously receive the Croix de Guerre, the highest French military award for bravery in battle, but he would never see his daughter, Tania , born to Violette in London just months before he died.

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Afterward, Violette Szabo seethed in London, working in an aircraft factory but yearning for some way to become more actively involved in defeating Nazi Germany. When, by chance, she met a recruiter from the Special Operations Executive , she decided to volunteer. Winston Churchill had created the SOE to send agents behind enemy lines for strategic purposes; she was fluent in French and, though just 5-foot-5, athletic and surprisingly strong for her size.

She was already a crack shot in a family comfortable around guns and target practice; under rigorous SOE training, she became an accomplished markswoman. By February , Szabo was finishing parachute training and gearing up for her first mission in France. The SOE codemaster, Leo Marks, observed that she was struggling with her poem code , a cryptographic method of sending and receiving messages with random groups of words from an assigned poem serving as a key, where each letter is assigned a number. Agents would have to memorize the poem exactly, but Szabo was making small spelling mistakes that often rendered her encoding indecipherable.

She was despondent, but Marks tried to solve the problem by handing her a different, simply-worded poem, one whose iambic pentameter, he thought, might improve her concentration while encrypting:.

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In truth, Marks had written it himself after the woman he loved had been killed in a plane crash in Canada the year before. Original poems, Marks believed, made it more difficult for Germans to decode. Szabo continued to train, memorizing her cover story and attending briefings on the details and rendezvous points of her mission. In April , she was dropped near Cherbourg, where she helped sabotage infrastructure and spied on industrial plants the Germans were using to support their war machine.

She had returned to England. On June 7, , the day after Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, Szabo was dropped back into France to disrupt German communications. As they approached Salon-la-Tour, they came across a German road block. Dufour stopped the car about 50 yards from the soldiers and told Szabo to be ready to run. He leapt out and began firing his machine gun—and noticed, to his surprise, that Szabo stayed with him, firing her Sten Gun and hitting several Germans.

He ordered her to run toward a wheat field while he provided cover, and once she got there she fired at the Germans from the flank, enabling Dufour to join her. The two began to run, taking cover in the tall wheat as they headed for the woods. Soon they heard vehicles in pursuit. Running, crawling, they tried to retreat to safety but found nowhere to go. She insisted that he flee while she tried to keep the Germans at bay, and fired judiciously for a half-hour while he found refuge under a haystack.

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When she ran out of ammunition, the Germans closed in. Dufour could hear them questioning her about his whereabouts. Szabo simply laughed. Szabo was turned over to the German secret police, who interrogated, tortured and sexually assaulted her. She refused to cooperate, however, and was transferred to Paris, held by the Gestapo and tortured some more. Fearful that the Allies might mount a rescue mission, the Germans transferred her to a series of camps and prisons.

Spirit of Resistance

On one transfer near Paris, British planes strafed the prisoner train carrying her. The German guards exited to take cover, but a group of male prisoners were trapped as the bullets hit. Szabo secured a jug of water from a bathroom and crawled to the wounded, even with another woman chained to her ankle, so she could pass jug around and calm them.

There, she joined Denise Bloch and Lilian Rolfe, where they were put to hard labor, digging wells and clearing boulders for an airfield. They were subjected to more beatings, and women around them were succumbing to tuberculosis and dysentery; Szabo hatched several plans to escape, but to no avail. In just weeks, with the Russians only hours away, the Germans would take 20, prisoners on a death march toward Mecklenburg, where survivors were liberated by the Red Army.

Szabo was not among them. Behind a crematorium, forced to her knees, holding hands with Bloch and Rolfe until the end, she felt their bodies go limp and collapse into the snow, as one shot, then another echoed through the camp. A pause, then a noise, and the life she had was no more.

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