"At some stage she would have to join the absurdly named FANYs"


Female agents recruited into the SOE were obliged to join the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) as cover.

The picture shows a legendary New Zealand SOE operative, Nancy Wake, wearing the uniform of the FANY.  Known to the Gestapo as the "White Mouse", she coordinated French Resistance efforts and personally led attacks on German installations.  At one point she was the Gestapo's most-wanted person.  Her French husband was tortured and executed for refusing to betray her.



Violette Szabo
Public DomainViolette Szabo - Credit: Crown Copyright

Twelve of the female SOE agents sent to France were captured and died in German concentration camps.  They include Violette Szabo, who was interrogated and tortured by the Gestapo, and then executed at Ravensbrück concentration camp, aged just 23.  She was awarded the George Cross posthumously, and was immortalised in the film Carve Her Name With Pride (1958).



Odette Hallowes was also sent to Ravensbrück, but she survived the war and was awarded the George Cross.  Her story is told in the film Odette (1950).

The FANY memorial in Knightsbridge lists 54 names, a number of them SOE agents.