Friday, August 22, 2014

Four Female Spies/Resistance workers of World War I

Part of France and most of Belgium was occupied by Germany during World War I. This situation gave rise to resistance efforts by affected Belgian and French citizens, some of whom worked for British Intelligence. Their courage foreshadowed -- and in many cases, directly inspired -- the more well known resistance activities that occurred in the same nations during the Second World War.

Marthe Cnockaert

Marthe Cnockaert was a young Belgian woman who worked for British Intelligence during the war.She volunteered at a local army hospital by day, earning a German Iron Cross for her efforts, and waited on German servicemen in her father's cafĂ© by night, all the while keeping her eyes and ears open for information which she passed along to her Belgian contacts. Eventually caught and tried, her death sentence was commuted to life in prison because of her Iron Cross.

Read more about Cnockaert here.

Gabrielle Petit was a deeply troubled young Belgian who found a new, passionately patriotic lease on life when the Germans overran her country and she began to work or British Intelligence. After she was betrayed to the Germans, her feisty personality and combative behavior during her trial, imprisonment, and execution became immensely galvanizing for Belgian resisters of both world wars.

Read more about Petit here.

Edith Cavell

Edith Cavell was a British nurse and nursing instructor who hid British soldiers in her Brussels clinic and helped them escape from occupied Belgium into the neutral Netherlands. She was caught and her subsequent execution by the Germans caused international outrage and a large but temporary surge in British enlistment numbers.

Her work directly inspired that of World War II resister, Andree de Jongh, founder of the Comet Line. 

Read more about Cavell here and here. 

Louise de Bettignies in 1905

Frenchwoman Louise de Bettignies created and operated a large espionage network in the occupied portion of France. Through her brilliant, courageous, and tireless efforts, British Intelligence was provided with invaluable information during the war. One member of British Intelligence had this to say about her work after the war: "Through [Louise de Bettignies] we learned with a precision, a regularity, and rapidity that was never surpassed by any other organization, all the movements of the enemy, the exact position of their batteries, and a thousand details that were of great help to our headquarters. Possibly, during the course of the war, experience having perfected the method of working one or two services equaled hers. Not one has ever surpassed it."

Her work directly inspired that of famed WWII SOE agent Pearl Witherington. 

Read more about De Bettignies here.

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