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Fort Nelson

SOE: Sabotage and subversion

Kate Vigurs
17th June - 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

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Chosen to work in a secretive, clandestine and mainly male domain, the women of the Special Operations Executive, French section (SOE F) were remarkable women. Ranging from housewives to grandmothers, shop assistants to princesses, thirty-nine women passed through a rigorous training programme. They were taught: silent killing, instinctive shooting and sabotage as well as survival tactics for life in Nazi Occupied France. They were infiltrated behind enemy lines to work as couriers and wireless operators, operating undercover and beyond the protection of the Geneva Convention.

Life expectancy was short, sometimes a mere six weeks but these women worked and fought hard – often living in solitude with no friends or company; travelling hundreds of kilometres carrying vital yet incriminating information;  receiving arms or vital supplies and risking everything to make contact with SOE HQ over the radio waves.

Kate Vigurs will examine how these women were selected and what training they received. Drawing on archive material and interviews Dr Vigurs will evaluate the operational lives of several agents, assessing their roles and suitability for such intricate work, and in some cases, detailing their fate at the hands of the enemy.

 Tickets cost £5 and include light refreshments.

Forthcoming Fort Talks

15 July – The Deadly 88: design, deployment and demise / Phil Magrath
19 Aug – The development of anti-aircraft gunnery / Geoff Smith
16 Sept – Never at sea: Women of the WRNS / Jen Kaines
21 Oct – Bomber Command: An airman’s logbook  /  Graham Walters
18 Nov – Women of the Special Operations Executive /  Kate Vigurs
16 Dec – The German Ardennes offensive 1944  / Mike Forrest
20 Jan – Portsmouth Blitz  /  James Daly
24 Feb – The Second World War: Artillery finds new roles / Nicholas Hall
17 Mar – Gunpowder technology  / Geoff Smith


From 18 March 2020 our museums in Leeds and at Fort Nelson will be closed to visitors until further notice.