Violette left the battery in the February of ‘42 to return home to her ecstatic parents. She
then found a flat at 36 Pembridge Villas in Notting Hill. Two of her friends, Carmen and
Miriam, often stayed.
Étienne's letters stopped and without knowing what had happened to her husband, Violette
went to St. Mary's Hospital, Paddington. On the 8th of June they were blessed with a
daughter, Tania Damaris Désirée.
As a derivative of Titania, Queen of the Fairies, from Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', it was in keeping with the royal name tradition of the Leroys Violette and Tania went to stay a few days with her very great friend, Vera Maidment, who lived with her mother at 59 Fernside Avenue, Mill Hill.
A few weeks of rest at the flat then followed. Violette wanted to get Tania somewhere safe
from the bombing. She chose the area where she had spent her Land Army days, and took
Tania to stay with a Mrs. Edwards, who ran a nursery for evacuated babies at Yew Lodge,
During this time, Violette did not know that Étienne and his regiment were in retreat from
Bir Hakim and were being regrouped and sent to reinforce the 8th Army in fighting Rommel's
There was news of fighting that involved his regiment, but no further information could be
obtained from the Free French headquarters or the Red Cross.
Violette began working at the Rotax aircraft factory, where her father worked, in Morden.
Some months later, she received news that meant Étienne would never set eyes on his
daughter. He had died from battle wounds, to his chest, at El Alamein on October 27th.
Little did the poor grieving Violette know that her fate would take yet another crucial turn
as a 'Mr. Potter' began trying to find her in the ATS.
His real name was Captain Selwyn Jepson - a former mystery writer - and he was recruiting
people with various skills and languages for one of the most secret organisations of the War.
Once he had tracked her down, he invited Violette to attend an interview at the Ministry of
Pensions at Sanctuary Buildings. Thinking it was something to do with Étienne's death, she
Violette was told something of highly secret and dangerous work in France and 'Potter'
discovered her fearlessness and determination. She was, in fact, being assessed for the
F (French) Section of the Special Operations Executive.
Against the advice of some friends and unknown to her parents, Violette joined the SOE,
as it was known, in July 1943. Violette became a Serving FANY in the First Aid Nursing
Yeomanry, as was usual for female agents, on the 23rd of August. She organised her Will,
brought Tania back from Havant and placed her in the care of Vera Maidment.
The SOE, was a top secret organisation created by Winston Churchill in order to place
behind enemy lines a network of secret agents trained in clandestine warfare who would
organise and co-ordinate covert resistance movements and destroy enemy communications
A vital part of the F Section's task was to prevent German troops from supporting their
coastal defences of France once the D-Day landings had begun.
The SOE commandeered many large houses in England and Scotland to accommodate and
train a variety of nationalities in a range of disciplines according to the nature of their roles
Violette's personal file mentions her training at Winterfold, Knoydart, Ringway and at
Blackbridge. She was sent to Winterfold, Surrey, in the August. It was the home of the
Students Assessment Board where trainees were put through tests designed to determine their
potential suitability as future agents and to highlight their strengths and weaknesses.
Her report mentions that she was " A quiet, physically tough, self willed girl. Has plenty of
confidence in herself and gets on well with others. Plucky and persistent in her endeavours.
Not easily rattled. She could possibly do a useful job as a courier."
The following month Violette was sent for commando training at Inverie House, Knoydart,
in the West Highlands of Scotland. Here, agents received instruction in silent killing, fieldcraft, weapons training, sabotage and explosives. Violette's natural skills in firing came to the fore.
Her fearlessness, agility and toughness would have stood her in good stead during the physically gruelling exercises and survival training.
Parachute school at Ringway, near Manchester, then followed. Fatefully, during a practice
jump she injured her left ankle and did not return to complete that part of her training until
the end of the following February of 1944.
On the 17th October Violette went to Blackbridge, which was one of several 'finishing
schools' on the Beaulieu estate in Hampshire. Here she would have received training in how
to lead a clandestine life, maintain cover stories, contact other agents, avoid attracting
attention, recognise enemy security forces and resist interrogation.
At Ringway, Violette had met Phillipe Liewer, (often known as Charles Staunton), and saw
him again in London, with a colleague of his called Robert Maloubier, (often known as Bob
The head of F Section, Col. Maurice Buckmaster was preparing to send Staunton back to
Rouen, where he was a wanted man. Therefore, someone was needed to check out the area on
his behalf whilst he remained in Paris. He decided that he could trust Violette with his life and
asked for her to join him.
Violette needed a new coding poem. Leo Marx, the Head of Codes, had written one ( The
Life That I Have ) for a recently deceased girlfriend. He was so taken by Violette that he let
it become hers. The poem has since become so synonymous with Violette's life that it forms
the titles of the four information panels within the Violette Szabo GC Museum.
However, the mission was scrapped at the last minute because a message had come through
saying that two agents and a transmitter had been captured by the Germans.
Violette was able to see more of Tania, and to get to know Staunton and Maloubier and
another SOE colleague, Harry Peulevé, until the rescheduled take off for the evening of April
Seeing Harry must have been quite a shock because she had last met him at a night club
several months before, believing him to be a Signals Officer on his way to North Africa. It is
quite possible that following this initial meeting Peleuvé could have told the SOE about her.
Buckmaster saw Violette at SOE premises in Orchard Court just before she left London for
her mission and recalled that she had "that wholly dedicated and admirable tension of the
mind and senses which causes people to overcome fear and hardship when there is a rough job
The F Section Intelligence Officer, Vera Atkins, travelled in the car which took Violette from
London to Tempsford Airfield, near Bedford, that the SOE used. On the way, they passed Mill
Hill. Seeing that Vera had noticed a change in her Violette explained "It's where my child is.
Violette’s new identity was that of Corinne Reine Leroy ( based on her mother’s maiden
name ), a ‘secretaire commerciale’ from Le Havre - plus an emergency identity of Vicky Tailor
( a play on her own name ) that could be used in Spain.
Now please buy the book from the museum..........