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Lilian Vera Rolfe (26 April 1914, Paris, Francemarker - 5 February 1945, Ravensbr√ľckmarker, Germanymarker) was an Allied secret agent in World War II.

Early life

She and her twin sister Helen Fedora Rolfe were the daughters of George Rolfe, a Britishmarker chartered accountant working in Paris. Although she grew up in Paris, as a young girl, she frequently visited her grandparents, who lived on Paulet Road in Londonmarker. When she was sixteen, her family moved to Brazilmarker, where she finished her schooling.

World War II

At the onset of World War II, Rolfe worked at the British Embassy in Rio de Janeiromarker before going to Londonmarker, Englandmarker in 1943 to join the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. Because of her fluency in the French language, she was recruited into the Special Operations Executive (SOE), where she was trained as a wireless operator.

On 5 April 1944, she was dropped near the city of Orléansmarker in occupied France, where she was deployed to work with the "Historian" network run by George Wilkinson. Her job was to transmit Maquis and other important radio messages to London. Beyond her wireless duties, that included reporting on Nazi troop movements and organizing arms and supply drops, she actively participated in missions with members of the French Resistance against the German occupiers and was involved in a gun battle in the small town of Olivet just south of Orléans.

Following the D-Day landings, an increasingly aggressive manhunt by the Gestapomarker led to the arrest of her superior officer. Nonetheless, Rolfe continued to work until her arrest at a transmitting house in Nargismarker on July 31 1944. Transported to Fresnes prisonmarker in Parismarker, she was interrogated repeatedly and brutally tortured until August 1944, when she was shipped to Ravensbr√ľck concentration campmarker. According to an admission made by a German officer after the war‚Äôs end, she was so ill that she could not walk. On 5 February 1945, 30-year-old Lilian Rolfe was executed by the Germans and her body disposed of in the crematorium.

Three other female members of the SOE were also executed at Ravensbr√ľck: Denise Bloch, Cecily Lefort, and Violette Szabo.

Honours

The name of Lilian Rolfe is engraved on the Runnymede Memorialmarker in Surreymarker, England. The "Lilian Rolfe House" at the Vincennes Estate, Lambethmarker was dedicated to her memory. In her honor, the government of France posthumously awarded her the Croix de Guerre. In the town of Montargismarker in the Loiretmarker département, where she had been active, a street was named for her alias: "Rue Claudie Rolfe". As one of the SOE agents who died for the liberation of France, she is listed on the "Roll of Honor" on the Valençay SOE Memorialmarker in the town of Valençaymarker, in the Indremarker departément of France.

References

  • Squadron Leader Beryl E. Escott, Mission Improbable: A salute to the RAF women of SOE in wartime France, London, Patrick Stevens Limited, 1991. ISBN 1-85260-289-9
  • Liane Jones, A Quiet Courage: Women Agents in the French Resistance, London, Transworld Publishers Ltd, 1990. ISBN 0-593-01663-7
  • Marucs Binney, The Women Who Lived for Danger: The Women Agents of SOE in the Second World War, London, Hodder and Stoughton, 2002. ISBN 0-340-81840-9
  • Sarah Helm, A Life in Secrets: The Story of Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE, London, Abacus, 2005 ISBN 978-0-349-11936-6



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