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Christine: SOE Agent and Churchill's Favourite Spy: A Search for Christine Granville Paperback – 6 Oct 2005
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Gripping. (MAIL ON SUNDAY)
An exciting story. . . Christine was cool, fascinating, graceful, secretive, alternating a vivid warmth with remoteness, a lover of freedom and a law unto herself (DAILY TELEGRAPH)
This biography, stark, earthy, uplifting and bloodstained, deserves to be read even by those who are tired of war books. In Christine, Dostoyevsky, I suspect, would have found a heroine to his taste (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)
The remarkable life story of Christine Granville - Churchill's 'favourite spy' and one of the most successful women agents of the Second World WarSee all Product description
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HOWEVER, there are many errors and mistatements of facts in the book which Virago, and the original 1975
publisher, did not correct. 1. There is absolutely no evidence that Churchill ever said, 'she's my favourite
spy.' The news that was brought to Churchill, i. e. that the Germans were preparing to invade the USSR,
was in fact discovered by a Polish underground unit known as The Musketeers. Christine was their liaison
outside Poland. The news was delivered to her and to the British naval attache in Sofia. It was he who sent
the news to Churchill, not Christine. SOE files at the National Archive, and the Musketeer files in Poland,
give a true account of what actually happened.
2. The author never visited Poland, did no research in Polish files (I knew Mrs. Masson), and could not
research SOE files at the National Archive because they were still closed to the public in 1975, when this
story was originally published. 3. There is no evidence that Christine threatened to explode a grenade, or
grenades, when challenged by a German - or Italian - border guard There are no documents or eyewitnesses
to this account. The story was told to Mrs. Masson long after the war, by Christine's grieving lover, Andrew
Kennedy, who is responsible for much of the detail in the book. 4. I interviewed the family of Christine's
1st husband. His name is incorrect in both the original book and in this Virago reprint. To my knowledge,
I'm the only one who has so far interviewed the Getlich family. 5. Christine did NOT win the Miss Polonia
contest. The files of the Polish newspaper that sponsored the contest are available in Warsaw. Christine
finished 5th in a field of 15 contestants. 6. She did NOT contribute to the British 8th Army's victory over
Syria in 1941. SOE files and the 8th Army's own war diary, available at the National Archive, contradict this
claim, made by Marcus Binney in his book The Women Who Lived for Danger.
Readers of Mrs Masson's book should be aware that Andrew Kennedy and 4 friends withheld cooperation
from journalists seeking to write about Christine, for almost twenty years. These 5 men gave Mrs. Masson
most of her information. When the SOE archives were opened in 1994-95, researchers were at last able
to get the true story of Christine's adventures.
Finally, there is no substance to the claim that Christine had an affair with Ian Fleming. The author of that
tale, Donald McCormick, relied totally on a female witness whose identity has never been discovered. McCormick
always refused to identify her. The woman once said (allegedly) to McCormick that Christine was very tight-
lipped and seldom talked about her private affairs. So, why would she tell this woman, in great detail, about
an affair with Fleming? And this supposedly took place before Fleming wrote his first book.
Readers of Mrs. Masson's account should maintain at least a bit of skepticism when it comes to accounts of
her heroic activities.
The author writes engagingly and with authority. It is an extremely interesting and moving story of an extraordinary
Polish patriot. I found it engrossing.
Christine Granville or Krystyna Skarbek as she was born was somewhat of an enigma, a complicated person, extremely modest, had the stamina of a mountain goat, a great presence and an ability to command attention through her actions.
She was a willowy beauty and with an extraordinary sense of right and wrong.
Her story should be promoted globally
The book had a slightly unusual genesis, in that the authoress met her subject over a quarter-century before the book first came out in 1975. In 1952, the authoress was travelling as a passenger from Cape Town to London. Her stewardess was her later subject. Not long after the ship docked, the stewardess was murdered by what would today be called a stalker, stabbed once in the heart. The killer was hanged.
The end of her life was in an aesthetic sense a fitting denouement. This half-Polish half-Jewish woman was an adventuress of the first order and lived a life packed with intrigue, espionage and murder. It is not surprising that with her background, she had at least two reasons to be strongly active against the Reich.
It seems that she became a kind of British agent about a year before WW2, perhaps in 1938.
One flaw in the book (despite this edition coming out in 2005 with some additions) is that it ignores the less favourable facts about the lady in relation to both her life and work. For example, I did not see here her claim (I think late 1939), contained in at least one other book about her life, that a Bavarian regiment of the Wehrmacht had mutinied and were being massacred (in Poland) by the SS. A complete fabrication, but presented by Christine to her British spymasters as fact. Again, she claimed, later in the war, that in one particular region of France hundreds of people were being abducted and murdered by the Gestapo/SS/Milice et al, all in one or two towns! Another out and out lie, yet sent to London as fact by her. I should encourage those interested to read other accounts about this lady.
This book does make the point that Christine was motivated to a large degree by a need for action annd adventure, rather than principle or ideology. This puts her firmly within a stream of SOE women, not least Violette Szabo. Christine's need for life and action is demonstrated, as in the case of some other SOE survivors, by her postwar life.
To some extent, the subject remains enigmatic. She admitted to blowing up at least one barge on the Danube and carrying out other actions which are more acclaimed in time of war than in peacetime: she told one visitor that she disliked firearms and preferred the shiny steel stiletto which she kept after the war as a souvenir or memento.
To her credit, she also liked small animals and small children, we are told.
This edition has an author's Afterword, which contains some more interesting information. It seems that, after WW2, Christine was involved with Ian Fleming, the pseudo-spymaster (he was PA to the head of naval intelligence in WW2 and was given what was little more than a courtesy title of Lieutenant, later upgraded to Commander). Fleming used her nickkname as a small girl as the basis for the name of an early "Bond girl", Vesper Lind, it seems.
Overall, this is a good read if one keeps in mind that, despite the authoress having talked at length of her one-time boyfriend and fellow-agent, it is far from a complete account.
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