In the intermingled histories of Dames in War, you no sooner research one skirt when another comes to light. So to continue with the apparently British Babes theme that is currently in play, Violette Bushell Szabo (1921-1945) represents one of the more tragic figures of WWII.

Violette was born in Paris to a French mother and a British father. She was raised in England and at the start of the Big One, she was working at a perfume counter. Hardly representative of the adventures this gal was about to embark upon.

Violette met Etienne Szabo, a Frenchman of Hungarian descent, and after a zam-pow courtship, they married a short 42 days later. Violette was 19 years old. Etienne was sent to fight in Northern Africa while Violette was left behind where she went to work for the Auxilary Territorial Service and to gave birth to their only child, Tania. Tragically, Etienne was killed in battle in 1942, never once having seen his daughter.

This event provoked a profound change in Violette. She offered her services to the British Special Operations Executive where she met considerable resistance (much like the kind Pearl Cornioley encountered), but was cleared for service and was parachuted into France in 1944.

Codename “Louise”, Violette went to town reorganizing a fractured French Resistance network that went kablooey at the hands of the Germans. This sprite of a girl led her men to sabotage roads and bridges while Violette herself radioed back to the British important Allied bombing targets. Violette returned to England a short 25 days later, her first mission a resounding success.

Violette returned to the Limoges region of France in June with the mission to disrupt communications lines of the Germans. Violette was captured when her car encountered and unexpected roadblock and she ran out of ammo during a consequent gun fight. She was taken to prison, moved repeatedly about the country, and endured obscene amounts of torture in effort to get her to rat-out her comrades which she never did.

An SOE rescue attempt missed Violette by a mere 2 hours when in late August 1944, Violette was transported to the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp.

Violette Bushell Szabo was executed sometime during the early part of February 1945. She was shot in the back of the neck alongside two other female SOE agents. A female French section agent imprisoned in the camp later reported of Violette’s demise. Her remains were incinerated in the camp’s crematorium. She was just 23 years old.

23 Years old. It’s hard to get your head around the feats of this young dame. Most 23 year olds this Agent knows are too wrapped up in their nightlife, chasing guys, and celebrity gossip.

But Violette was of a different ilk and a different era. In our time of war, a war that is so far removed from our shores, it’s difficult to imagine the sacrifices some broads have made for the sake of better world.

In 1946, Tania Szabo, Violette and Etienne Szabo’s surviving daughter (pictured left), received the George Cross, posthumously awarded to her mother who was only the second woman to have received the honor. In 1950, seven year old Tania also received the Croix de Guerre from France for Violette’s heroism.


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