The star of RJ Minney’s book and film “Carve Her Name with Pride”, World War II heroine Violette Szabó has a museum.
Violette, born 26 June 1921, was a secret agent working for the Special Operations Executive, taking on special missions behind enemy lines.
She began her second mission the day after D-Day. She was flown to the outskirts of Limoges and began working with Jacques Dufour of the Maquis (resistance) to sabotage German communication and coordinate the Resistance. On 10 June 1944 they were in a car and were stopped by an unexpected German roadblock. A brief gun battle ensued and Violette was captured by the SS and taken to Limoges for interrogation. She spent four days there and was then moved to the Gestapo headquarters in Paris. She was tortured and interrogated but gave nothing away to her German captors.
In August, she was taken to Ravensbruck concentration camp where she endured hard labour and squalid conditions. In early February 1945 (5 February?) she was executed along with two other female SOE agents, at the age of 23 years. – See more here.
For her bravery she was awarded the George Cross (the first woman to receive the award) and the Croix du Guerre.
Fellow World War Two heroine, Odette Churchill, once said, “she was the bravest of us all.”
Violette was born Violette Reine Elizabeth Bushell in Levallois, Paris. Their daughter Tania was born in June 1942.
The museum in Herefordshire
Violette’s aunt Rosemary Rigby MBE created the Violette Szabo Museum, which opened its doors in June 2000 after many years of fundraising and collecting artefacts from people who knew Violette or served with her during the war. Virginia McKenna who played Violette in the film “Carve Her Name with Pride”, based on RJ MInney’s book of the same title, attended the first fund-raising event. Violette’s daughter Tania supports the museum to honour her memory and that of her husband Etienne Szabo and so people can learn of their bravery during the war. Leo Marks the writer of Violette’s poem also attended the opening of the museum.
Violette married Etienne Szabó, Adj.-chef of the 13th Demi-Brigade de Légion Étrangère in August 1940. He was a distinguished member of the Légion d’Honneur, Médaille Militaire, Croix de Guerre with Star and Palm, Colonial Medal. A a career legionnaire and a great leader, he led his men from the front with formidable courage in many battled including in Norway, Bir Hakeim and El Alamein. On 24 October 1942, he was killed leading his men south of El Alamein.
The museum features the story and life of Violette Szabó along with life stories of the many resistance workers who sacrificed their lives. VIt also has details of the Ravensbruk concentration camp where Violette and many of her compatriots went after they were captured and a plaque to the bravery of Violette and her friends. It also has 3 versions of the Leo Marks poem “The Love That I Have” – one version alerted the SOE that Violette was being coerced into writing but which version it was is unknown.
The museum also has many amazing photographs that chart Violette’s childhood through to her marriage to Etienne, with many happy family snaps.
The museum is in Herefordshire in the grounds of a small house named Cartref where Violette spent many happy childhood days and also stayed between her missions to France during the war.. The museum opens every Wednesday April through September.
Violette Szabo GC Museum
Phone: 01981 540 477