The Untold Story of Britain's First Female Special Agent of World War II
In June 1952, a woman was murdered by an obsessed colleague in a hotel in the South Kensington district of London. Her name was Christine Granville. That she died young was perhaps unsurprising; that she had survived the Second World War was remarkable.
The daughter of a feckless Polish aristocrat and his wealthy Jewish wife, Granville would become one of Britain's most daring and highly decorated special agents. Having fled to Britain on the outbreak of war, she was recruited by the intelligence services and took on mission after mission. She skied over the hazardous High Tatras into occupied Poland, served in Egypt and North Africa, and was later parachuted behind enemy lines into France, where an agent's life expectancy was only six weeks. Her courage, quick wit, and determination won her release from arrest more than once, and saved the lives of several fellow officers - including one of her many lovers - just hours before their execution by the Gestapo. More importantly, the intelligence she gathered in her espionage was a significant contribution to the Allied war effort, and she was awarded the George Medal, the OBE, and the Croix de Guerre.
Granville exercised a mesmeric power on those who knew her. In The Spy Who Loved, acclaimed biographer Clare Mulley tells the extraordinary history of this charismatic, difficult, fearless, and altogether extraordinary woman.
Chapter 1: BORDERLANDS
Perhaps appropriately for a secret agent, the deceptions and confusions that surround Christine's life start with her birth [Although she was 'Krystyna' until 1941, to prevent confusion I consistently use her adopted name, 'Christine', of which, she later wrote, she was so proud]. One story has it that Christine was born at the Skarbek family estate on a stormy spring evening in 1915, and that her arrival coincided with the appearance of Venus, the evening star, in the sky. As a result she was nicknamed 'Vesperale'. In an even more romantic version of events, she was born 'in the wild borderlands between Poland and Russia', to a family that was noble, 'tough, used to invasions, warfare, Cossacks, bandits and wolves'.1 In fact Christine arrived in the world on Friday 1 May 1908. One of her father's childhood nicknames for her was 'little star', but she was born at her mother's family ...
This biography insightfully explores Christine Granville's ineffable qualities and illuminates a little-known, but fascinating character from history. Christine was indeed a spy who loved. She loved freedom, Poland, a handful of interesting men, and a life full of adventure. Fans of WWII history, espionage, or James Bond will be delighted by this real-life espionage story.
(Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).
Full Review (1183 words).
Christine Granville worked for the Special Operations Executive (SOE), an organization set up to assist European resistance movements and according to Winston Churchill, "to set Europe ablaze." The SOE was formed from three different but overlapping units: a propaganda unit known as Department EH run by a Canadian newspaper magnate; Section D, a division of the Secret Intelligence Service focused on sabotage and propaganda; and a department of the War Office, known as MI R. In July 1940, all three were rolled into one organization - the Special Operations Executive.
Although expectations were high for the SOE, there was trouble in the early months. The organization faced three primary challenges: how to recognize resistance movements, ...
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