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on 28 May 2017
very good
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on 11 June 2014
I didn't realise just how many women were involved during the war. Each story is so interesting and well worth reading.
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on 3 December 2011
A good read. These women did a lot of brave work which has not always been appreciated, at great personal sacrifice. The author'r research has been thorough and she writes as if she new them all personally. This book will accompany me on all future visits to France as it will cast a new light on many towns and villages.
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on 7 November 2011
This book provides a very brief introduction to SOE and is no bad thing because of that. There are many well researched, highly detailed accounts and any more than what is provided would serve only as a repetition in what is a volume that provides a brief biographical outline of the SOE "girls".

The book concentrates upon the female members of F (French) Section of SOE. Each member is given her own (short) chapter providing brief antecedents, how the individual came to the notice of SOE, her training and deployment.

It's at this point in each narrative where the reader would do well to have some knowledge of SOE and F Section in particular because the story can easily become confusing. With the multiplicity of names for 'circuits' and sub-circuits, the names of individuals within them (including code-names and aliases), the way that members were swapped between circuits or they re-allocated themselves, it may become confusing to a reader who has no previous knowledge of SOE's modus operandi.

The author's style is a bit clunky at times and while this is a fine effort to draw all the female F Section members into one volume there is much necessary repetition in many chapters because few stories don't touch upon that of another, some indeed having a common tragic ending.

The content isn't without a few simple errors that wider research might have avoided. However, none of these really detract from the overall effect and nothing can undermine the respect due to these courageous women, nor their right to have their stories told without the usual romanticised nonsense that movie-makers feel unable to avoid. In that respect, the author has succeeded and I commend this effort to bring the stories of many remarkable women together in one volume - a task not made easy by the paucity of available information due to official secrecy and the modesty of the women themselves.

It is also good to see that many of the photos of the women are not the ones most often published, a detail that I found particularly welcome.
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on 18 May 2012
This is a fascinating account of some of the bravest of the brave in WW2. Each chapter follows the story of one of these women. All of them came from different backgrounds and were of different ages, yet all were driven by patriotism. They survived hardship, danger, treachery and hunger yet refused to give in to torture and sadly many met a painful death, though some survived the war but even then refused to divulge their secret former lives. This book is a well-written tribute to these few women who are an inspiration for future generations.
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This book concerns itself with the women who worked within SOE's French Section.

There were far fewer women than men employed by SOE and mostly as radio operators or couriers; a few rose to lead a Group of agents. Most had some familial or marital connection with France and a good command of the language. A knowledge of the country's geography and customs would be useful as was the ability not to draw undue attention to their presence. Essentially, they had to merge into the background and not all achieved it.

All agents, regardless of gender, would receive similar training which would include use of several weapons, self defense, radio technique, coding and decoding and, almost always, parachute training as most were to be dropped. Some may also receive sabotage training. Although some of the SOE men had been seconded from a military unit, all of the women were civilians although they may as a pretext be given a uniformed military rank either in FANY (nursing) or as a WAAF or WAAC (mostly as ambulance drivers).

Women were considered better for some roles than were men. They may be better able to detract undue German attention by a smile or use of their guile and there were places where women were thought to be less obvious or cause for suspicion. A job in a dress shop, hairdresser, beautician or something of that nature could be a good cover.

It is an unfortunate fact of history that, in the event of capture, a female agent would be treated as severely as would a male and their fate could be the same. Consequently, several female agents were killed in the field at their radio or in action and several more in concentration camps. The stories of Odette Sansom and Violette Szabo are probably two of the best known from this group; Odette survived the war but Violette did not.

"The Heroines of SOE: F Section: Britain's Secret Women in France" by Squadron Leader Beryl E. Escott is the story of those women. Although Canadian by birth, she joined the WAAF in 1961 and rose through its ranks. She has written several books, specifically about the WAAF and through its sideways association, in this instance, also SOE. Unfortunately, she is not that good a writer and may not provide the best opportunity that her subject deserves.
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on 17 April 2012
Good read. Difficult to get your head round how brave these women were and what we owe them. Eisenhower said that the war ended 9 months sooner because of the work of these women. Very upsetting what those that were captured suffered at the hands of the Germans. Mans inhumanity is sometimes beyond understanding.
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on 9 February 2012
Better book than I expected. A very good book about young women's lives who fought for England and for France. Some of them lost their lives tragically after being captured by the German secret service or troops. The book contains detailed information about real unknown heroines of II World War, their training,how they carried out their missions,the equipment, their courage, their suffering and their sacrifice harassed by the Germans, playing a outstanding role to get the German army being defeated in France. They fought not just before D-Day but the following days helping the allies armies till the total liberation of France .
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on 4 September 2013
I really want to like this book. The subject matter should be interesting and heroic but the flat prosaic style of writing makes it read like a shopping list. I am not sure I will even be able to finish it.
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on 25 October 2013
This book gives a brief summary of each featured female SOE during the second world war working with the Resistance in France. It stimulated my interest in these women, and I have since picked out individuals of particular interest and read books dedicated to them. It has opened a whole new topic of reading to me, and I would reccomend it to anyone, but especially females to learn about true heroism and what fantastic role models these women are. Their personal qualities, their bravery, their dedication to the cause and their sheer guts and determination gives us women something to aspire to. Forget the modern day role models of film stars etc and read about women who are truly worthy of admiration.
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