Born in 1921, Violette Szabo was the daughter of a French woman and an English Officer who met during WWI. She met and married Etienne Szabo, a Captain in the French Foreign Legion, at the beginning of WWII, she was widowed before their daughter was born when Etienne was killed in action.
Because of her knowledge of France, and fluent French, she was recruited as an agent for the British – asked to do 'dangerous work'.
"You mean spying?" she asked her interviewer. "No, not spying - but similar", he replied. "We want people with special qualities to be trained and go into enemy occupied territory to make life very unpleasant for the Germans"
As part of "making life difficult" she successfully completed a mission in April 1944, acting as a courier to help reform a resistance unit which had been broken up near Rouen, travelling from Paris to Rouen, contacting six people from the unit believed to have escaped detection. In six weeks she contacted all six, and brought her report home successfully.
Then on 7 June 1944 she was again dropped in France, for a similar mission. This time, she wasn't so lucky, and she and her young French guide were ambushed by a German patrol. Urging her guide to escape, she was taken prisoner. Despite brutal interrogation she revealed nothing of her mission. She was put on a train for Germany where, during an air raid, and despite being chained by the ankle to another prisoner, she managed to carry water to a badly injured British officer, who lived to tell the tale.
In Germany she was imprisoned, first in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, and later in two labour camps, under appalling conditions, but she never gave away the secrets of her mission. In 1945 she was returned to Ravensbrück, where she was executed. She was twenty-four.
In 1946 Violette Szabo became the first woman to be awarded the George Cross, Britain's highest civilian award for bravery.