Kathryn's Reviews > The Heroines of SOE: Britain's Secret Women in France

The Heroines of SOE by Beryl Escott
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Mar 29, 12

bookshelves: soe, world-war, british-history, women-s-history

There have been multiple biographies written about individual SOE women but Beryl Escott’s book is the first I know of that gives short biographies on all 40 of the women of the SOE’s F (French) Section, the largest section of the SOE.

What makes the SOE – an organization that recruited, supplied, and trained resisters in Nazi-occupied countries -- such a fascinating study is that it worked outside of the box, militarily-speaking, their end goal being the destruction of German communication and war production through sabotage. But the female element of the SOE is particularly fascinating: female agents were nearly on equal footing with their male counterparts (although few females were actually trained to be leaders).

The arrogant Nazi regime created in many a overwhelming desire to fight actively and the SOE tapped into this motivation, providing an immediate way for a small number of qualified women to become directly involved in the fight rather than fill the more traditional but necessary supportive military roles available to British women during the war.

Courageous, idealistic, quick-thinking, determined women risking their lives to face down the Nazi state makes for compelling reading and Escott’s informative introduction provides a good foundation for the 40 brief but detailed stories of the SOE’s F-Section females she has collected here. Her largely straightforward writing doesn’t always flow as smoothly as one might wish but she’s definitely done her homework and the subject matter is extremely compelling.


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