Friday, June 28, 2013

"Courage was their common badge." Maurice Buckmaster on the abilities of female SOE agents.

Maurice Buckmaster, head of the Special Operations Executive's French Section, came under heated post-war criticism for allowing female agents to fight behind enemy lines in German-occupied France. He wrote two books about the SOE's F-Section, often getting his facts wrong but brilliantly painting SOE heroines in deservedly glowing terms. Below is an excerpt:

"It has been suggested that women agents should never have been sent, that they were forced to undertake missions to which both by temperament and by nature they were unsuited and in physique and spirit inadequate.  The dead cannot be revived by such accusations, they can only be dishonoured.  Those of us who know of the work done by women like Violette Szabo, Norah Inayat-Khan, Denise Bloch, among those who died, and by Lise de Baissac, the sisters, Jacqueline and Eileen Nearne, and Nancy Wake among those who survived, can only feel anger and contempt for those who try to denigrate Baker Street by questioning the ability of women to fight alongside men and who impugn the efficiency of Headquarters by doubting the readiness of brave women to face perils and, if necessary, to die for their countries.  These women did an invaluable job and one for which, whatever people may say, they were admirably suited.  Coolness and judgment were vital qualities; none lacked them.  Courage was their common badge."

Excerpt from They Fought Alone: The Story of British Agents in France by Maurice Buckmaster.

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