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

Written by Rick Stroud
Review by Sarah Cuthbertson

In June 1940, Prime Minister Churchill authorised the setting-up of the Special Operations Executive to sabotage the Nazis in occupied Europe. Recruiter Selwyn Jepson persuaded Churchill that women would make excellent SOE agents because they ‘have a far greater capacity for cool and lonely courage than men’. Of the 39 female SOE agents, the author has chosen to concentrate on seven who worked with the Résistance in occupied France: Andrée Borrel, Violette Szabó, Pearl Witherington, Virginia Hall, Nancy Wake, Polish countess Christine Granville, and Indian princess Noor Inayat Khan, whose sensitivity and Sufi background might have made her unsuitable for such a dangerous occupation but who in the end showed perhaps the greatest cool and lonely courage of all. Their inspiring stories of daring and determination under extreme duress are set against the unfolding of the war in Europe and for those wishing to read more about them and their sisters in courage, there’s a comprehensive bibliography.