Join us for an evening of true adventure and derring-do, as Rick Stroud and Ben McIntyre exchange stories of the SOE women and the SAS men who went to ground all over Nazi-occupied Europe.
Set up by Churchill in 1940, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) saw its role in France as helping the Resistance, by recruiting guerrilla fighters for reconnaissance and sabotage. Women were to play an active role, because for Churchill they were self-reliant and had a ‘cool and lonely courage’.
A year later, at the height of the war in the Western Desert, a young officer came up with his own plan for an undercover unit of nothing-to-lose misfits, drawn from an unusual range of backgrounds – a spectacles salesman, a textile merchant, a tomato farmer, an amateur boxer – to inflict mayhem behind enemy lines. So began the most secretive and eccentric of military organisations, the Special Air Service (SAS).
The SOE recruited 39 women agents from all walks of life – from shop assistant to Polish aristocrat. What linked them was that they all knew France well, were fluent in French and fearless. Trained alongside the men, they learnt how to blend into the background, how to operate a radio transmitter, how to kill a man with their bare hands. Some went on to lead Resistance cells; others were arrested, brutally interrogated and sent to concentration camps.
Lonely Courage is Rick Stroud’s biography of this group of women who relied on willpower, cunning and even sexual guile to help in the liberation of Europe. Rogue Heroes is Ben MacIntyre’s authorised wartime history of the SAS, based on unique archival access to reports, memos, diaries, letters, maps and photographs, as well as interviews with surviving ‘Originals’ and those who knew them.
Both books are intricately plotted tales of ordinary women and men who took extraordinary risks, and of the human cost involved.