The Women of the Special Operations Executive
Join us on International Women’s Day to hear Dr Kate Vigurs present her research into the women of the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War.
During the Second World War women from the British government’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) worked as secret agents behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied France. They risked their lives working as couriers and wireless operators, helping the local resistance prepare for the Allied invasion and paving the way for victory. Towards the end of the war, eight of them were caught.
The women were Violette Szabo, Odette Sansom, Lilian Rolfe, Denise Bloch, Cecily Lefort, Yvonne Baseden, Yvonne Rudellat and Eileen Nearne. The Nazis arrested them in France, interrogated them and eventually transferred them to Ravensbrück concentration camp, intending that they would disappear without trace. Unprotected by the Geneva Convention and beyond Allied help, the lives of these women hung in the balance. This is the story of their recruitment, training, work and eventual fate.
This programme is supported by a grant from The Association of Jewish Refugees.
Dr Kate Vigurs is a professional freelance historian whose PhD at the University of Leeds was entitled ‘The women agents of the Special Operations Executive F section – wartime realities and postwar representations’. Her extensive research included interviewing agents, historians, actors and script writers, as well as visiting France several times and undertaking an extensive tour of memorials to the women of F section including Ravensbrück and Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camps.
Kate regularly appears on TV and radio, most recently in Time Commanders on BBC2.