Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Second World War secret agent's George Cross goes on display at Imperial War Museum

The George Cross which was posthumously awarded to Second World War secret agent Violette Szabó has been put on permanent display today for the first time at London's Imperial War Museum.

The exhibition, supported by Lord Ashcroft, houses the largest collection of Victoria Cross and George Cross medals in the world. Violette Szabó's medal collection was recently acquired at auction by Lord Ashcroft for a record price of £260,000.

Daughter of a British soldier who fought during the First World War and his French wife, Violette was 18 years old when the Second World War broke out, living locally to IWM in Stockwell with her parents and working as a shopkeeper.

Whilst working in the Women's Land Army Violette met Etienne Szabó, a Free French officer in the Foreign Legion and after a short whirlwind romance they were married in August 1940. However, just four months after the birth of their beloved daughter Tania in June 1942, Etienne was killed in action during the Battle of El Alamein.

Shortly after Etienne's death Violette was recruited to the Special Operations Executive joining the French 'F' section, whose agents were sent undercover to occupied France to work against German Forces.

On the night of 7 June1944, the day after British troops landed in northern France on D-Day, Violette parachuted into France on her second mission to set up a network with local resistance groups. Three days later whilst on a courier trip with a resistance leader they encountered German troops.

Their car was stopped at a road block. Violette and two French agents engaged the German soldiers in a lengthy fire-fight, until Violette was eventually captured. She was brutally interrogated in prison before being deported to Germany. Violette was later executed at Ravensbrück concentration camp in 1945.

Tania Szabó, Violette's daughter who was just two years old at the time of her death says:

"Violette, my mother, would be chuffed and deeply honoured, as am I, that through the generosity of Lord Ashcroft the medals awarded to her are going on display at the Imperial War Museum in London. Her life, although tragically but heroically cut short was lived with great bravery and courage, and intense joie de vivre. Her legacy will live on and it is my hope that anyone who visits the Imperial War Museum may be inspired by her story."

– Tania Szabó