Eileen Nearne — known as Didi — was, in fact, one of the bravest secret agents of World War II. She sent over 105 radio transmissions that paved the way for Allied troop movements. The average SOE lasted 6 weeks, she worked for more 5 months. When caught, she showed exceptional courage, withstanding torture, incarceration, and concentration camps. She survived the war and was awarded the Croix de Guerre.
Illustration of barbed wire progressively turning into roses by Irina Gliudza. (Photo: Fabrica) Part of a commission to transform poems written by children in the Terezin concentration camp into works of art. Also, 27 January is Holocaust Remembrance Day in the UK.
Noor Inayat Khan, the British agent who ran a spy network in Paris. For ten months she was tortured by the Gestapo desperate for any information about SOE operations, but she stood firm and was eventually executed at Dachau concentration camp on September 13, 1944, aged just 30.
Flight Officer Johnny Smythe, from Sierra Leone, enlisted in the RAF in 1939. He was one of four out of a class of 90, to complete the tough training to be a Navigator. On his 28th bomber mission, in November 1943, he was wounded, shot down, and captured by Germans who could not believe they were looking at a Black officer. In Stalag Luft One, Smythe worked on the escape committee, but couldn’t break out himself: "I don’t think a six-foot-five black man would’ve got very far in Pomerania."