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Eileen Nearne - Heroine of WWII

Eileen Nearne
DOB/DOD: March 15, 1921 Died: September 2, 2010 at age 89
BACKGROUND: Grew up in France, escaped to England during Nazi invasion of France, she was recruited by the SOE because of her knowledge of France and ability to speak French
ALIASES/NICKNAMES: codenamed Rose, Didi
WANTED BY: Gestapo and Ravenesbruck concentration camp
MILITARY RANK: Agent, Special Operations Executive (SOE)
OBJECTIVE/MISSION: Radio operator and courier for SOE in Paris
OUTCOME: Captured and tortured by Nazis but never cracked. Escaped twice.
HONORS: French Croix de Guerre, Member of the Order of the British Empire

Parchuted Into France and Worked As Radio Operator and Courier - Eileen Nearne

Eileen Nearne was parachuted into France in 1944, days before her 23rd birthday, where she worked undercover for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) as a radio operator and courier in Paris.

It was a lonely life, but she relished her role: "When I put my hand on the signal keys, there came a feeling of patriotism." Describing how she lived undercover, she said: "I wasn't nervous. In my mind I was never going to be arrested. But of course I was careful. There were Gestapo in plain clothes everywhere. I always looked at my reflection in the shop windows to see if I was being followed."

On July 25, 1944, the Gestapo arrived at her hide-out just after she had transmitted a message and arrested her. She was taken to the local Gestapo HQ, where she told them she was a French woman called Jacqueline Duterte. She told them she was working for a businessman and that she did not understand the messages she sent. Elaine's report reveals: "He said: 'Liar, Spy', and hit me on the face. He said: 'We have ways of making people who don't want to talk, talk. Come with us'."

She was taken to the torture room, where she was tortured with the cold bath technique: immersion in water to wear down her resistance and complete immersion. But she did not break, and gave false names and addresses of her colleagues.

Nearne was taken to Ravensbruck concentration camp and she refused to do prison work. Her head was shaved and she was told she would be shot if she continued to refuse: "I decided to work."

In late 1944, she was transferred to a work camp where Nearne worked 12 hours a day on roads. When asked how she kept up hope, Eileen said: "The will to live. Will power. That's the most important. You should not let yourself go. It seemed that the end would never come, but I have always believed in destiny and I had a hope."

With the Americans closing in, Nearne and the other women in the camp were moved. On April 9, 1945, while being transported, Eileen escaped with two French women. They made their way through the woods but were arrested the fourth day by the SS. However, they convinced the Germans that they were French volunteer workers and were allowed to continue on their way.

The next day, the women saw the white flags and went to greet the Americans.But with no identification, they were considered German spies and held in prisons with members of the SS. Nearne was interrogated and finally managed to persuade the Americans she was a British spy.

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