Violette Szabo (George Cross)
As a petite, headstrong tomboy, Violette Szabo was destined to be remembered.
The only daughter in a family of five children, was born in Paris 1921 to an English father. Her father had served in WWI where he met her French mother. Time was spent in France, where she stayed with an aunt until the age of 11 before returning to the family home in South London.
Violette’s war service began in 1940 when she joined the Land Army and then worked in an armaments factory. It was also in 1940 when she met her future husband, an officer in the French Foreign Legion, named Etienne Szabo. Marriage followed, and a daughter was born in 1942, but Etienne was killed at El Alamein, never having seen her.
Devastated, Violette wanted to assist the Allies in France, being bi-lingual, she joined the SOE (Special Operations Executive). Tough training saw her become a field operative and courier. Her mission in France was to investigate the arrest of over 100 Resistance fighters and to find how they had been betrayed.
Her second mission was 8 June 1944, two days after D-Day when she parachuted into Limoges, France to help reinstate resistance lines that had been lost to the Germans. She was trying to evade a roadblock, and in the ensuing gunfight twisted her ankle, leaving her unable to escape.
Violette was taken to Paris before being transported to several camps including Ravensbruck. There she was tortured and kept in horrendous conditions in solitary confinement before being executed on 5 February 1945, just twelve weeks before peace.
Her service and bravery behind enemy lines was recognised, and she was posthumously awarded the George Cross. Her daughter Tania collected it from George VI on 17 December 1946. She was also awarded the Croix de Guerre in 1947 and La Medaille De La Resistance in 1973. “Carve Her Name With Pride” tell her life in books and film.
The IBCC has recorded and preserved 100’s of first-hand accounts of life during the War, they are available for free for everyone on the IBCC’s Digital Archive.
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