The True Spy Story of Eileen Nearne, Britain's Forgotten Wartime Heroine
- Bernard O'Connor
15th September 2014
In September 2010 the body of Eileen Nearne was found in a flat in Torquay. With no known friends or relatives, a council burial was arranged. A police search of her belongings found wartime French currency and wartime medals. Further investigation revealed that she was one of 40 women sent into France by the SOE, the Special Operations Executive, Churchill’s top secret wartime ‘spook’ organisation. Her story and her poignant death as a recluse became an international media sensation.
Being fluent in French Eileen, or ‘Didi’ as she liked to be known, was identified early in the war by the SOE as a potential agent. After spending months training as a wireless operator, coding messages for transmission and decoding those received from agents in the field, she was chosen to be sent into occupied France . She underwent paramilitary training and was assigned the codename ‘ROSE’. After working in dangerous conditions in Paris for several months, she was captured, interrogated and tortured. Keeping to her story that she was an unwitting French girl caught up in resistance work, she was transferred to a series of concentration camps in Germany. She made a miraculous escape in early 1945.
Eileen had difficulty adjusting to living in post-war Britain. After recovering from a nervous breakdown, she devoted her life to helping others and eventually became a recluse. This is her story.