Poem Code....a tribute to a brave young woman!
I suppose we have all come across poems throughout our lives but during WW2 poems became a way of communication and were used by the SOE (Special Operations Executive) to communicate safely with their agents in occupied France, the cryptographic security of these poems was enhanced by Leo Marks who headed the code office that supported resistance agents of the SOE from 1942 onwards.
One particular poem was issued by Leo Marks to Violette Szarbo nee Bushell in March of 1944 she was a French agent for the SOE, Violette was born in Paris in June of 1921, her parents moved to London after the great depression but Violette and her brother remained with an aunt in France until the family were eventually reunited in South London when Violette was 11 years old.
In 1940 Violette joined the women's land army but eventually returned to London to work in an armaments factory, she met Etienne Szarbo at a Bastille day parade in London, and after a whirlwind romance they were married in August of 1940 she was 19 he was 31, Etienne was eventually posted to Africa.
During the next year Violette worked at the GPO (general post office) as a switchboard operator, but joined the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) in September 1941, Violette gave birth to her daughter Tania in June 1942 while Etienne was stationed in North Africa, she was informed of her husband's death in October 1942....he had never seen his daughter.
It was Etienne's death that made Violette accept the offer to train as a field agent for the British SOE, her first mission into occupied France established where local factories were making war materials and were important in establishing allied bombing targets, on her return journey to England the plane was hit by anti aircraft fire but eventually landed safely although heavily.
On June 8 1944 following D-Day Violette and 3 colleagues were dropped by parachute near to Limoges this was their second mission and was to coordinate activities of the resistance in sabotaging the communication lines of the Germans who were attempting to stop the Normandy landings, on June 10 whilst travelling with a resistance leader their car raised suspicion with a German road block after a gun battle Violette was eventually captured by an SS panzer regiment, she was taken to the Gestapo headquarters where she was interrogated and tortured.
Although Violette endured torture, hard labour and malnutrition whilst on her way and during her imprisonment at Ravensbruck, she did manage to save the life of a Belgian resistance courier and kept up the spirits of her fellow detainees, Violette Szarbo was eventually executed in an execution alley at Ravensbruck age 23 on February 5 1945 shot in the back of the head whilst kneeling in the presence of the camp commander.....Violette was the second woman to be awarded the George Cross bestowed posthumously on December 17 1946 this is Violette's code poem written by Leo Marks.....
The life that I have is all that I have
And the life that I have is yours
The love that I have of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours
A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours
Only one film has been made about Violette Szarbo and it is the 1958 British classic 'Carve her name with pride' with Virginia McKenna in the lead role, this is a tribute not just for Violette but for all the brave young agents of the SOE during the occupation of France during WW2, if you wish to comment you are more than welcome and thanks for reading.
Andrew Porter (Horticulturist) All Rights Reserved 2016
Picture Credit: wikimedia.org