Violette Szabo
Overview
 
Violette Reine Elizabeth Bushell Szabo, GC
George Cross
The George Cross is the highest civil decoration of the United Kingdom, and also holds, or has held, that status in many of the other countries of the Commonwealth of Nations...

, (26 June 1921 – c. 5 February 1945) was a Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

-British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 secret agent.
She was born Violette Reine Elizabeth Bushell in Paris, France on 26 June 1921, the second child of a French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 mother and an English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 taxi-driver father, who had met during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. The family moved to London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 and she attended school in Brixton
Brixton
Brixton is a district in the London Borough of Lambeth in south London, England. It is south south-east of Charing Cross. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London....

 until the age of 14. At the start of the Second World War, she was working in the Bon Marché department store in Brixton on the perfume counter.

Violette met Etienne Szabo, a French officer of Hungarian
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 descent, at the Bastille Day
Bastille Day
Bastille Day is the name given in English-speaking countries to the French National Day, which is celebrated on 14 July of each year. In France, it is formally called La Fête Nationale and commonly le quatorze juillet...

 parade in London in 1940.
Encyclopedia
Violette Reine Elizabeth Bushell Szabo, GC
George Cross
The George Cross is the highest civil decoration of the United Kingdom, and also holds, or has held, that status in many of the other countries of the Commonwealth of Nations...

, (26 June 1921 – c. 5 February 1945) was a Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

-British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 secret agent.

Early life and marriage

She was born Violette Reine Elizabeth Bushell in Paris, France on 26 June 1921, the second child of a French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 mother and an English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 taxi-driver father, who had met during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. The family moved to London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 and she attended school in Brixton
Brixton
Brixton is a district in the London Borough of Lambeth in south London, England. It is south south-east of Charing Cross. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London....

 until the age of 14. At the start of the Second World War, she was working in the Bon Marché department store in Brixton on the perfume counter.

Violette met Etienne Szabo, a French officer of Hungarian
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 descent, at the Bastille Day
Bastille Day
Bastille Day is the name given in English-speaking countries to the French National Day, which is celebrated on 14 July of each year. In France, it is formally called La Fête Nationale and commonly le quatorze juillet...

 parade in London in 1940. They married on 21 August 1940 after a whirlwind 42-day romance. Violette was 19, Etienne was 31. Shortly after the birth of their only child, Tania, Etienne died from chest wounds at the Battle of El Alamein
Second Battle of El Alamein
The Second Battle of El Alamein marked a major turning point in the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. The battle took place over 20 days from 23 October – 11 November 1942. The First Battle of El Alamein had stalled the Axis advance. Thereafter, Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery...

 in October 1942. He had never seen his daughter. It was Etienne's death that made Violette, having already joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service
Auxiliary Territorial Service
The Auxiliary Territorial Service was the women's branch of the British Army during the Second World War...

 in 1941, decide to offer her services to the British Special Operations Executive
Special Operations Executive
The Special Operations Executive was a World War II organisation of the United Kingdom. It was officially formed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton on 22 July 1940, to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Axis powers and to instruct and aid local...

 (SOE).

Training and first mission

After an assessment for fluency in the French language
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 and a series of interviews, she was inducted into Special Operations Executive
Special Operations Executive
The Special Operations Executive was a World War II organisation of the United Kingdom. It was officially formed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton on 22 July 1940, to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Axis powers and to instruct and aid local...

. She received intensive training in night and daylight navigation, escape and evasion, both Allied and German weapons, unarmed combat, demolitions, explosives, communications and cryptography
Cryptography
Cryptography is the practice and study of techniques for secure communication in the presence of third parties...

. A minor accident during parachute training delayed her deployment into the field until 5 April 1944, when she was parachuted into German-occupied France, near Cherbourg
Cherbourg-Octeville
-Main sights:* La Glacerie has a race track.* The Cité de la Mer is a large museum devoted to scientific and historical aspects of maritime subjects.* Cherbourg Basilica* Jardin botanique de la Roche Fauconnière, a private botanical garden.* Le Trident theatre...

.

Code-named "Louise", she reorganised a French Resistance
French Resistance
The French Resistance is the name used to denote the collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime during World War II...

 network that had been smashed by the Germans. She led the new group in sabotaging road and railway bridges. Her wireless reports to SOE headquarters on the local factories producing war materials for the Germans were extremely important in establishing Allied bombing targets. She returned to England by Lysander
Westland Lysander
The Westland Lysander was a British army co-operation and liaison aircraft produced by Westland Aircraft used immediately before and during the Second World War...

 on 30 April 1944, landing by Lysander
Westland Lysander
The Westland Lysander was a British army co-operation and liaison aircraft produced by Westland Aircraft used immediately before and during the Second World War...

 at RAF Tempsford
RAF Tempsford
RAF Tempsford in Bedfordshire, England was perhaps the most secret Royal Air Force airfield in World War II. It was home to the Special Duties Squadrons, No. 138, which dropped Special Operations Executive agents and their supplies into occupied Europe, and No...

, after an intense but successful first mission.

Second mission

She flew to the outskirts of Limoges
Limoges
Limoges |Limousin]] dialect of Occitan) is a city and commune, the capital of the Haute-Vienne department and the administrative capital of the Limousin région in west-central France....

, France on 7 June 1944 (immediately following D-Day
D-Day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

) from RAF Tempsford
RAF Tempsford
RAF Tempsford in Bedfordshire, England was perhaps the most secret Royal Air Force airfield in World War II. It was home to the Special Duties Squadrons, No. 138, which dropped Special Operations Executive agents and their supplies into occupied Europe, and No...

. Immediately on arrival, she coordinated the activities of the local Maquis
Maquis (World War II)
The Maquis were the predominantly rural guerrilla bands of the French Resistance. Initially they were composed of men who had escaped into the mountains to avoid conscription into Vichy France's Service du travail obligatoire to provide forced labour for Germany...

 (led by Jacques Dufour) in sabotaging communication lines during German attempts to stem the Normandy landings.

She was a passenger in a car that raised the suspicions of German troops at an unexpected roadblock that had been set up to find Sturmbannführer
Sturmbannführer
Sturmbannführer was a paramilitary rank of the Nazi Party equivalent to major, used both in the Sturmabteilung and the Schutzstaffel...

 Helmut Kämpfe
Helmut Kämpfe
Helmut Kämpfe was a Sturmbannführer , in the Waffen SS during World War II. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, which was awarded to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership by Nazi Germany during World War II...

 of the Das Reich Division, who had been captured by the local resistance.

A brief gun battle ensued. Her Maquis minders escaped unscathed in the confusion. However, Szabo was captured when she ran out of ammunition, around midday on 10 June 1944, near Salon-la-Tour
Salon-la-Tour
Salon-la-Tour is a commune in the Corrèze department in central France.-Population:-References:*...

. Her captors were most likely from the 1st Battalion of the Deutschland Regiment. In R. J. Minney's biography, she is described as putting up fierce resistance with her Sten
Sten
The STEN was a family of British 9 mm submachine guns used extensively by British and Commonwealth forces throughout World War II and the Korean War...

 gun. German documents of the incident record no German injuries or casualties.

Interrogation, torture and execution

She was transferred to the custody of the SD
Sicherheitsdienst
Sicherheitsdienst , full title Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS, or SD, was the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany. The organization was the first Nazi Party intelligence organization to be established and was often considered a "sister organization" with the...

 in Limoges
Limoges
Limoges |Limousin]] dialect of Occitan) is a city and commune, the capital of the Haute-Vienne department and the administrative capital of the Limousin région in west-central France....

, where she was interrogated for four days. From there, she was moved to Fresnes Prison
Fresnes Prison
Fresnes Prison is the second largest prison in France, located in the town of Fresnes, Val-de-Marne South of Paris...

 in Paris, and brought to Gestapo headquarters at 84 Avenue Foch
84 Avenue Foch
Number 84 Avenue Foch was a building in Paris used by the Gestapo during the German occupation of Paris in World War II.The location is found on Avenue Foch, a wide residential boulevard in the XVIe arrondissement which connects the Arc de Triomphe and the Porte Dauphine.During the German...

 for interrogation and torture. In August 1944 she was moved to Ravensbrück concentration camp
Ravensbrück concentration camp
Ravensbrück was a notorious women's concentration camp during World War II, located in northern Germany, 90 km north of Berlin at a site near the village of Ravensbrück ....

, where over 92,000 women died. There, she endured hard labour and malnutrition. She managed to help save the life of Belgian resistance courier Hortense Clews
Hortense Clews
Hortense Daman Clews Croix de Guerre, Order of Leopold II, Medal of the Armed Resistance 1940-1945 was an Allied heroine of World War II.-Early years:...

.

Violette Szabo was executed on or about 5 February 1945 and her body disposed of in the crematorium. She was 23 years old.

Three other women members of the SOE
Special Operations Executive
The Special Operations Executive was a World War II organisation of the United Kingdom. It was officially formed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton on 22 July 1940, to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Axis powers and to instruct and aid local...

 were also executed at Ravensbrück: Denise Bloch
Denise Bloch
Denise Madeleine Bloch was a French secret agent working with the British Special Operations Executive in World War II.- Early life :...

, Cecily Lefort
Cecily Lefort
Cecily Lefort was a British SOE agent, during World War II.-Early life:Born as Cecily Margot MacKenzie in London of Scottish ancestry, she lived on the coast of Brittany in France from the age of 24 with her French husband, Dr...

, and Lilian Rolfe
Lilian Rolfe
Lilian Vera Rolfe was an Allied secret agent in World War II.-Early life:...

. Of the SOE's 55 female agents, 13 were killed in action
Killed in action
Killed in action is a casualty classification generally used by militaries to describe the deaths of their own forces at the hands of hostile forces. The United States Department of Defense, for example, says that those declared KIA need not have fired their weapons but have been killed due to...

 or died in Nazi concentration camps.

Awards and honours

Szabo was the second woman to be awarded the George Cross
George Cross
The George Cross is the highest civil decoration of the United Kingdom, and also holds, or has held, that status in many of the other countries of the Commonwealth of Nations...

, bestowed posthumously on 17 December 1946. The citation was published in the London Gazette
London Gazette
The London Gazette is one of the official journals of record of the British government, and the most important among such official journals in the United Kingdom, in which certain statutory notices are required to be published...

and read:
The Croix de Guerre
Croix de guerre
The Croix de guerre is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts...

 was awarded by the French government in 1947 and the Médaille de la Résistance
Médaille de la Résistance
The French Médaille de la Résistance was awarded by General Charles de Gaulle "to recognise the remarkable acts of faith and of courage that, in France, in the empire and abroad, have contributed to the resistance of the French people against the enemy and against its accomplices since June 18,...

 in 1973. As one of the SOE agents who died for the liberation of France, Ensign Szabo is listed on the "Roll of Honor" on the Valençay SOE Memorial
Valençay SOE Memorial
The Valençay SOE Memorial is a monument to the members of the Special Operations Executive F Section who lost their lives for the liberation of France. The memorial was unveiled in the town of Valençay in the Indre département of France on May 6, 1991, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the...

 in the town of Valençay
Valençay
Valençay is a commune in the Indre department in central France.-Geography:Valençay is situated in the Loire Valley on a hillside overlooking the River Nahon.-History:...

, in the Indre
Indre
Indre is a department in the center of France named after the river Indre. The inhabitants of the department are called Indriens.-History:Indre is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

 département.

Museums and memorials

The Violette Szabo GC Museum is located in the cottage in Wormelow Tump
Wormelow Tump
Wormelow Tump is a village in Herefordshire, England, south of Hereford and north west of Ross-on-Wye.The tump itself was a mound which local tradition holds was the burial place of King Arthur's son Amr . The tump was flattened to widen the road in 1896.Wormelow gave its name to a hundred...

, Herefordshire
Herefordshire
Herefordshire is a historic and ceremonial county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes it is a NUTS 3 region and is one of three counties that comprise the "Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire" NUTS 2 region. It also forms a unitary district known as the...

, 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
Virginia McKenna
Virginia A. McKenna OBE is a British stage and screen actress, author and wildlife campaigner.-Early career:McKenna trained as an actress at the Central School of Speech and Drama then worked on stage in London's West End theatres before making her motion picture debut in 1952...

, Leo Marks
Leo Marks
Leopold Samuel Marks was an English cryptographer, screenwriter and playwright.-Early life:Born the son of an antiquarian bookseller in London, he was first introduced to cryptography when his father showed him a copy of Edgar Allan Poe's story, "The Gold-Bug"...

 and members of SOE.

The Jersey War Tunnels
Hohlgangsanlage 8
Hohlgangsanlage 8 was a partially completed underground hospital complex in St. Lawrence, Jersey, built by German occupying forces during the occupation of Jersey during World War II. Over of tunnels were completed...

 has a permanent exhibition room dedicated to Violette Szabo.

The Royal College of Music
Royal College of Music
The Royal College of Music is a conservatoire founded by Royal Charter in 1882, located in South Kensington, London, England.-Background:The first director was Sir George Grove and he was followed by Sir Hubert Parry...

 offers an annual award called the Violette Szabo GC Memorial Prize for pianists who accompany singers. The current holder is James Southall.

There is a mural dedicated to Violette Szabo in Stockwell
Stockwell
Stockwell is a district in inner south west London, England, located in the London Borough of Lambeth.It is situated south south-east of Charing Cross. Brixton, Clapham, Vauxhall and Kennington all border 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. This mural was listed in Time Out as one of London's top ten murals.

A blue plaque
Blue plaque
A blue plaque is a permanent sign installed in a public place to commemorate a link between that location and a famous person or event, serving as a historical marker....

 commemorating Violette Szabo can be found in Burnley Road in Stockwell
Stockwell
Stockwell is a district in inner south west London, England, located in the London Borough of Lambeth.It is situated south south-east of Charing Cross. Brixton, Clapham, Vauxhall and Kennington all border Stockwell...

, on the wall of the house where she grew up.

In 2008, a bronze bust of Szabo by sculptor Karen Newman
Karen Newman (artist)
Karen Newman ARBS is a British born Sculptor, best known for her Bronze Bust of Violette Szabo on the Albert Embankment of the River Thames, outside Lambeth Palace in London....

 was unveiled at the Albert Embankment
Albert Embankment
The Albert Embankment is a stretch of the river bank on the south side of the River Thames in Central London. It stretches approximately one mile northward from Vauxhall Bridge to Westminster Bridge, and is located in the London Borough of Lambeth.Albert Embankment is also the name given to the...

 of the River Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

, opposite Lambeth Palace
Lambeth Palace
Lambeth Palace is the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury in England. It is located in Lambeth, on the south bank of the River Thames a short distance upstream of the Palace of Westminster on the opposite shore. It was acquired by the archbishopric around 1200...

.

Book

Her daughter, Tania Szabo, wrote an exhaustive and careful reconstruction of her two missions in 1944 into the then most dangerous areas in France with flashbacks to her growing up. Author Jack Higgins
Jack Higgins
Jack Higgins is the principal pseudonym of UK novelist Harry Patterson. Patterson is the author of more than 60 novels. As Higgins, most have been thrillers of various types and, since his breakthrough novel The Eagle Has Landed in 1975, nearly all have been bestsellers...

 wrote the foreword and US-French radio-operator, Jean-Claude Guiet, who had accompanied her on the mission in the Limousin
Limousin (région)
Limousin is one of the 27 regions of France. It is composed of three départements: Corrèze, Creuse and the Haute-Vienne.Situated largely in the Massif Central, as of January 1st 2008, the Limousin comprised 740,743 inhabitants on nearly 17 000 km2, making it the second least populated region of...

, wrote the introduction. On 15 November 2007, at the launch of the book, Young Brave and Beautiful, at The Jersey War Tunnels
Hohlgangsanlage 8
Hohlgangsanlage 8 was a partially completed underground hospital complex in St. Lawrence, Jersey, built by German occupying forces during the occupation of Jersey during World War II. Over of tunnels were completed...

, 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."

In popular culture

Her wartime activities in German Occupied France were also dramatised in the film Carve Her Name with Pride
Carve Her Name with Pride
Carve Her Name with Pride is a 1958 British drama film based on the book of the same name by R.J. Minney. Set during World War II, the film is based on the true story of the heroism of Special Operations Executive agent Violette Szabo, with Virginia McKenna in the lead role.The film includes the...

, starring Virginia McKenna
Virginia McKenna
Virginia A. McKenna OBE is a British stage and screen actress, author and wildlife campaigner.-Early career:McKenna trained as an actress at the Central School of Speech and Drama then worked on stage in London's West End theatres before making her motion picture debut in 1952...

 and based on the 1956 book of the same name by R. J. Minney. During her time as an agent in the SOE, she met Leo Marks, codes officer of the Special Operations Executive
Special Operations Executive
The Special Operations Executive was a World War II organisation of the United Kingdom. It was officially formed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton on 22 July 1940, to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Axis powers and to instruct and aid local...

 (SOE), who gave her what is now thought of as the definitive Second World War poem code
Poem code
The poem code is a simple, and insecure, cryptographic method.The method works by the sender and receiver pre-arranging a poem to use. The sender chooses a set number of words at random from the poem and gives each letter in the chosen words a number. The numbers are then used as a key for some...

, The Life That I Have
The Life That I Have
The Life That I Have is a short poem written by Leo Marks and used as a poem code in the Second World War....

.

In 2009, Replay Studios
Replay Studios
Replay Studios was an independent video game developer that created games for the seventh generation of gameconsoles and PC, targeted for the international market. Located in Hamburg, Germany, it was founded in 2002 by Marc Moehring and Sascha Jungnickel....

 released the stealth action video game Velvet Assassin
Velvet Assassin
Velvet Assassin is a stealth action video game for Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows, released in North America on April 28, 2009. Velvet Assassin's working title was Sabotage....

, in which the player controls a character named Violette Summer based on Szabo. The game story is fiction.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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