Oxted & District History Society - Talk
Oxted & District History Society

Carol Brown, of Guildford Museum, gave an illustrated lecture to the Oxted & District History Society on ‘Spies & Petticoats- Women in the SOE in World War II’. 

In July 1940, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) was set up, with F Section covering both Occupied & Vichy France.  Recruitment and the 6 weeks training was initially based at Wanborough Manor, near Guildford, where trainees had to speak only French.  The British wrongly assumed that the French would be keen to help agents but in fact most were keener to collaborate with the Germans.  Women were first recruited in 1942 and were good at working alone and fitted more easily in France where many of the young men had left to work elsewhere.

Of the 39 women agents in Section F who went to France, 13 were executed and did not return.  Although women were only supposed to be couriers, many were involved in sabotage operations.  Violette Szabo went to France twice before being tortured and executed.  She was posthumously awarded the George Cross.  Diana Rowden, educated at school in Limpsfield, was one of the first women to be trained at Wanborough Manor in 1942. She was arrested and executed but received no posthumous award.


Spies & Petticoats – Women in the SOE in World War II

by Carol Brown.