Medal Auction Commemorates Violette Szabo

Medals commemorating the wartime service of Violette Szabo sold at auction today in London for £260,000. Ms Szabo’s gritty and heroic efforts as a secret agent of the Special Operations Executive during World War Two was brought to screen as ‘Carve Her Name With Pride’ by Lewis Gilbert (three Bond films).
The film is good at showing the personal and private side of the life of a war hero. We are with her when she receives the telegram with news of her husband’s death; then during her interview for SOE and in training we feel her courage and dignity overcoming the difficult circumstances. The film is surprisingly forward-looking in its portrayal of women and their ability to excel in a male dominated environment. The sequences of Violette’s army training call to mind later action films in which women prove their physical equality with men.
Virginia McKenna, who played Violette, believes that the film is an accurate depiction of life as a female agent. She took advice from Maurice Buckmaster, the head of the SOE at the time Violette was hired and regarded the role as her most demanding and fulfilling. She still attends the annual commemoration for Violette who died in the concentration camp at Ravensbrück. Moreover, the film is still fondly remembered by many for its symbolic power in tellingly a rich and basically accurate portrayal of the woman who refused to surrender to the Nazis.
My interest in Violette comes from my collection of spy books and in particular the interviews and talks I had with the late author and secret agent during the war Ted Allbeury. He fondly recalled how heroic the women telephone operators were during WWII and wrote about them in novels such as the Lantern Network (1978) and As Time Goes By (1994).

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