Violette Szabo GC monument on Albert Embankment commemorating all those in SOE
Our members love history, we are fortunate that they are certainly not parochial. This story is worthy of a special place in the history of our country.
As a former Royal Marine Commando who fought in trouble spots with Commando Units across the world I find the heroic story of Violette Szabo inspirational and deeply moving, I hope that everyone will share my view.
F G Newman Society Secretary & Technical Administrator
In 1946, secret agent Violette Szabo, widow of a French officer, was posthumously awarded the George Cross, the first English woman to receive it. She had been executed as a spy by the Nazis, at the age of 23 years in Ravensbruck concentration camp in January 1945. In occupied France in the summer of 1944 she single handedly held off a 400 strong Waffen SS unit.The citation commended her for offering, a magnificent example of courage and steadfastness. Poignantly, her 3 years old daughter Tania received the medal on her mother’s behalf.
On 4th October 2009, the Duke of Wellington and Lord Selbourne were at the unveiling of the new monument on the Albert Embankment, opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, as were veterans and many others in various services and members of the general public. It was a fine day which BBC One captured very well in its news bulletins.Karen Newman sculpted Violette. Her vision was to encapture the many strengths and emotions that Violette sustained in 1944 to her execution by the dreadful Nazi's in January-February 1945. Violette Szabó, George Cross, Croix de Guerre avec Etoile, is the icon for all those who fought behind enemy lines in occupied countries during the Second World War, especially those of the SOE F Section (French Section) and also those who stayed at home giving as much support as possible.Ivor Saxton was the moving spirit behind the erection of this fine monument. His wish is to commemorate through public monuments those who have contributed to the British way of life and particularly to the fragile freedoms we all share in our multi-cultural and multi-racial country. Karen, the sculptor, is, as most artists, sensitive, but with a determination to succeed. She took great pains to fulfil her remit and from Ivor, for the first time, learnt of such women. She has since sculpted Nancy Wake (the White Mouse), friend in SOE training of Violette.These two people managed to succeed wonderfully in their tasks. The result is a monument to SOE and Violette able to endure the centuries.
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
But death will be but a pause
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours
The above poem was written for her by Special Operations Executive code master Leo Marks, who later became a distinguished screenwriter. The poem, was used by Violette to authenticate radio messages in Occupied France.
(Coincidentally, the Sculptors name is that of my daughter Karen Newman (now Caffrey)