Posts Tagged ‘Women spies’

Women Spies of the World Wars: Pearl Cornioley

At the Table of Wolves, historical fantasy

Many women worked undercover during the world wars, but we know the names of only a few. Like men in the secret intelligence services, many went to their graves never revealing their roles. This blog series highlights a few that inspired me while writing At the Table of Wolves.


Pearl Cornioley

This amazing World War II operative rose to the highest ranks of the French resistance and was deemed the best shot British intelligence had seen, male or female.

Cornioley was 29 when she was sent to France as part of Churchill’s Special Operations Executive (SOE). Her flawless French and determination to fight the Nazis brought her quickly to prominent leadership in the resistance.  She began as a courier between the British and the French resistance and rose to command 3,000 underground fighters, the only woman to serve as a network leader. At one point she presided over the surrender of 18,000 German troops. As cover, she often had a suitcase of cosmetics to deflect suspicion during her travels in occupied France. Read More…

Women spies of the World Wars: Noor Inayat Khan

This blog series on women working undercover during the world wars highlights a few of the stories that inspired me while writing At the Table of Wolves which deals with the anti-fascist career of Kim Tavistock in the years leading up to WWII.

In the second World War the life expectancy of radio operators in occupied Europe was six weeks. Despite the danger, a number of women applied for and were accepted by the British military for missions behind enemy lines. Among them was Nancy Wake, the first subject of my blog series, and Noor Inayat Khan.

Inayat Khan, World War II radio operator Born in 1914, Noor Inayat Khan was the daughter of an American woman and a prominent Indian father who taught Sufism. The family settled in Britain but moved to Paris in 1920 where Inayat Khan studied music at the Paris Conservatory. At the outbreak of WWII the family fled to England where Inayat Khan cared for her siblings and her widowed mother. Despite her strong pacifist beliefs, she felt she most do something to fight the Nazis and joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and soon, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) for work as a radio operator where her fluent French was seen as a crucial asset. Read More…

Women Spies of the World Wars: Krystyna Skarbek

Many women worked undercover during the world wars, but we know the names of only a few. Like men in the secret intelligence services, many went to their graves never revealing their roles. This blog series highlights a few that inspired me while writing At the Table of Wolves.

Krystyna Skarbek, alias Christine Granville, was a Polish countess and  the first–and longest serving–British female spy. Her exploits were many, and yet her story, her name, and her achievements are hardly known. As just one example of an exploit which should be celebrated, she skied out of Nazi-occupied Poland with the first evidence of Operation Barbarosa, the German plan to invade Russia.

Destined to become Churchill’s “favorite spy,” she initially was turned down for service because she was a woman. Read More…

Women Spies in the World Wars: Virginia Hall

Many women worked undercover during the world wars, but we know the names of only a few. Like men in the secret intelligence services, many went to their graves never revealing their roles. This blog series highlights a few that inspired me while writing At the Table of Wolves.

Female spies; At the Table of Wolves

Painting of Virginia Hall at work as a spy. It’s displayed at the CIA in their fine art collection.

Virginia Hall.

The Gestapo badly wanted to apprehend this American spy, sending out an order saying, “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.”

Virginia Hall was infamous as “The woman with the limp,” as she had a wooden leg, the result of a hunting accident. Read More…