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Lonely Courage: The true story of the SOE heroines who fought to free Nazi-occupied France
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Lonely Courage: The true story of the SOE heroines who fought to free Nazi-occupied France

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General de Gaulle broadcast to his countrymen in France about the catastrophe that had overtaken their nation, the invading Germans. It was soon decided that women would play a vital role. There were 39 female agents recruited from all walks of life, ranging from a London shop assistant to a Polish aristocrat

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By Rick Stroud

On 18 June 1940 General de Gaulle broadcast from London to his countrymen in France about the catastrophe that had overtaken their nation - the victory of the invading Germans.

He declared: 'The flame of French Resistance must not and will not be extinguished.' The Resistance began almost immediately. At first it was made up of small, disorganised groups working in isolation. But by the time of the liberation in 1944 around 400,000 French citizens, nearly 2 per cent of the population, were involved.

The Special Operations Executive (SOE) set up by Winston Churchill in 1941 saw its role in France as helping the Resistance by recruiting and organising guerrilla fighters; supplying and training them; and then disrupting the invaders by any means necessary. The aim of this work was to prepare for the invasion of Europe by Allied forces and the eventual liberation of France. It was soon decided that women would play a vital role.

There were 39 female agents recruited from all walks of life, ranging from a London shop assistant to a Polish aristocrat. They all knew France well, were fluent in French and were prepared to sacrifice everything. The women trained alongside the men, learning how to disappear into the background, how to operate a radio transmitter and how to kill a man with their bare hands.

Once trained, they were infiltrated behind the lines; some went on to lead thousands of Resistance fighters, while others were arrested, brutally interrogated and sent to concentration camps. Lonely Courage tells their remarkable story and sheds new light on what life was really like for these brave women.

'A fascinating, superbly researched and revelatory book - told with tremendous pace and excitement' William Boyd

'Rick Stroud writes brilliantly about war...an astonishing book...a wonderful story' Ben Macintyre

'Enthralling, edge-of-smart exciting and also heart-breaking...Stroud's book is a reminder and fitting testimony to their immense bravery' James Holland

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