Violette: A secret story of wartime bravery; BRITISH AGENT TORTURED AND KILLED AT THE AGE OF 23.
A MIDLAND historian has shed astonishing new light on the capture and death of secret agent Violette Szabo.
Violette, who was recruited to the British Special Operations Executive (BSOE), was tortured and eventually executed by the Nazis after being caught on an undercover mission in France.
Her daughter, who had also lost her father in the Second World War, later collected her posthumous George Cross.
Violette joined the armed forces after the death of her husband Etienne in 1942 and was initially assigned to anti-aircraft duties near Oswestry, Shropshire.
But her ability to speak fluent French saw her recruited to the BSOE - known as Winston Churchill's Secret Army.
Violette completed one successful mission but never returned from her second. She was captured, tortured and eventually killed by the SS in February 1945 at the age of just 23.
For more than 50 years, reports had suggested she was executed because she had shot and killed eight German soldiers in a shoot-out.
But now Herefordshire historian Howard Tuck has discovered the truth about her capture - and details of the torture and sexual abuse she endured before her death.
His findings will be revealed in a documentary titled Secret Agent - the True Story of Violette Szabo on BBC 1 tonight.
'This was a story that needed to be told,' he said.
'When you start out on something like this you're never quite sure where it will lead. In this case, what we were able to discover was far beyond anything we could have hoped for.'
Howard reveals how, acting on information, he found an eye-witness who had seen the SS open fire on a car containing Violette.
Speaking about the incident for the first time in 58 years, the man revealed that the secret agent had actually been unarmed. He also revealed that no German soldiers were killed.
Cameras also see Howard meet Huguette Deshors, a French resistance fighter, who shared a cell in Limoges prison with Violette.
Speaking publicly for the first time, Huguette tells how Violette had remained bravely defiant despite enduring torture and sexual abuse.
'When the SS authorities came in, you were meant to stand with your hands behind your back and your head bowed,' she said. 'But Violette stayed sitting down. She later told me that the SS man said he wanted her. He put his revolver to the back of her neck and told her 'If tomorrow I want to kill you I'll do it, and that will be that.' The same officer then raped her.'
Violette was transferred 700 miles to Ravensbruck in Germany and there she saved the life of prisoner Hortense Daman-Clews, a Belgian resistance fighter who now lives in Stoke-on-Trent.
After eight months of hard labour, Violette died in February 1945. She was taken to an alleyway and shot in the back of the head.
Before her death she had talked non-stop about her daughter, Tania, whom she had left behind in England.
Aged four, Tania collected the George Cross from King George VI on behalf of her mother and in the 1950s Violette's story was turned into a film titled Carve Her Name With Pride.
BBC Midlands Today producer Dave Hart said: 'Violette Szabo was an amazing woman. It's been a privilege to make a programme like this with people who knew her.'
Secret Agent - The True Story of Violette Szabo, BBC 1tonight at 6.25pm.
COURAGEOUS... Violette Szabo was recruited to Winston Churchill's Secret Army TRIBUTE... the film Carve Her Name With Pride
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|Publication:||Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)|
|Date:||Jun 16, 2002|
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