Friday, May 9, 2014

A Life In Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII by Sarah Helm

A story of the men and women who waged Churchill's secret war

Once rumored to have been the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s Miss Moneypenny, Vera Atkins climbed her way to the top in the Special Operations Executive, or SOE: Britain’s secret service created to help build up, organize, and arm the resistance in the Nazi-occupied countries. Throughout the war, Atkins recruited, trained, and mentored the agents for the SOE’s French Section, which sent more than four hundred young men and women into occupied France, at least one hundred of whom never returned and were reported “Missing Presumed Dead” after the war. Twelve of these were women and among Atkins’s most cherished spies. When the war ended in 1945, she made it her personal mission to find out what happened to them and the other agents lost behind enemy lines, tracing rigorously their horrific final journeys. But as the woman who carried out this astonishing search appeared very English, Atkins was nothing of the sort. As the reader follows her through the devastation of postwar Germany, we learn Atkins herself covered her life in mystery so that even her closest family knew almost nothing of her past. 

Printing History
 Written by Sarah Helm

Nan A. Talese
First Edition
August 2006
ISBN 385 50845


Carve Her Name with Pride (1958)

Directed by Lewis Gilbert

Virginia McKenna as Violette Szabo
Paul Scofield as Tony Fraser
Jack Warner as Mr. Charles Bushell, Violette's father
Denise Grey as Mrs. Bushell, Violette's mother
Alain Saury as Etienne Szabo
Maurice Ronet as Jacques
Anne Leon as Lilian Rolfe
Sydney Tafler as Potter
Nicole Stéphane as Denise Bloch
Avice Landone as Vera Atkins, assistant to Colonel Buckmaster
William Mervyn as Colonel Maurice Buckmaster
Michael Caine as Thirsty Prisoner on Train


  1. Oh, this looks interesting, Scott - thanks.

  2. I was stationed in Poitiers, France, where one of the women operated a Safe House next door to Nazi headquarters. Her brother fought with the French Underground at the same time. They were dropped into France with many other SOE agents.The SOE is little known to many, but were very active during WWII, and highly accomplished. The women were not given award until many, many years after the war, and I'm sure Vera Atkins was one who fought for them. Thanks for the post, Scott.