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Lonely Courage: The true story of the SOE heroines who fought to free Nazi-occupied France by Rick Stroud

24 November 2017

Dennis Richards reads the exploits of those who risked all to free France from the Nazis


IN THE televised French presidential debate in April between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, there was an extraordinary exchange of views between them about the Vichy Regime’s complicity in the deportation of 76,000 Jews from France to the Nazi concentration camps. Extraordinary to British viewers, given that the worst of the round-ups occurred in 1942 in Occupied Paris, fully 75 years ago. How could a debate about a historical incident so long ago be still such a live and sensitive issue? Largely, it has to be said, because France preferred to move on after the Second World War, and not deal with what had occurred.

It was a serious mistake. Most importantly, it didn’t work. Historians do their job, and children ask awkward questions. The power of this new volume is to remind us that, in keeping quiet about their complicity, the French missed the heroes or, in this case, the heroines as well.

The 39 female agents, “these brave women who tumbled from the sky” into Occupied France, were part of the SOE (Special Operations Executive) set up by Churchill in 1941. Their story deserves to be told. Some of their stories have been told already, in a piecemeal fashion. This volume, however, has benefited from new research, and is a definitive history.

President Macron’s powerful recognition of both the good and the evil in Occupied France all those years ago played a significant part in his convincing election victory in April.


Dennis Richards is a former head of St Aidan’s C of E High School, Harrogate.


Lonely Courage: The true story of the SOE heroines who fought to free Nazi-occupied France
Rick Stroud
Simon & Schuster £20
Church Times Bookshop £18

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