Violette Reine Elizabeth Szabo GC

Name: Violette Reine Elizabeth Szabo

Conflict: Second World War

Gazetted: December 17,1946

Service: Army / Special Operations Executive

Violette Reine Elizabeth Szabo GC

Medal group

Place/date of birth: Paris, France/June 26, 1921

Rank when awarded GC (and later highest rank): Ensign

Date of bravery: April 1944-January/February 1945

London Gazette citation:

Violette, Madame Szabo (deceased), Women’s Transport Service (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry)

Madame Szabo volunteered to undertake a particularly dangerous mission in France. She was parachuted into France in April 1944, and undertook the task with enthusiasm. In her execution of the delicate researches entailed she showed great presence of mind and astuteness. She was twice arrested by the German security authorities, but each time managed to get away. Eventually, however, with other members of her group, she was surrounded by the Gestapo in a house in the south-west of France. Resistance appeared hopeless, but Madame Szabo, seizing a Sten-gun and as much ammunition as she could carry, barricaded herself in part of the house, and, exchanging shot for shot with the enemy, killed or wounded several of them. By constant movement she avoided being cornered and fought until she dropped exhausted. She was arrested and had to undergo solitary confinement. She was then continuously and atrociously tortured, but never by word or deed gave away any of her acquaintances, or told the enemy anything of value. She was ultimately executed. Madame Szabo gave a magnificent example of courage and steadfastness.’

[The above London Gazette entry is inaccurate, as was the recommendation it was based upon. This was likely a result of the rapid closure of ‘F’ Section at the war’s end and the resultant loss of first-hand knowledge. However, none of the errors in the citation detract from Violette Szabo’s sustained gallantry under fire or her magnificent example in captivity. The contrary. By way of example, she never had the luxury of bricks and mortar to protect her in her final stand at Salon-la-Tour, merely an apple tree in the middle of a field]

Click here to see full Gazette entry.

Other decorations: N/A

Place/date of death: Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, Germany/between January 25 and February 5, 1945

Grave/memorials: The Violette Szabó Museum, Wormelow, Herefordshire, situated in the property formerly known as Old The Kennels, the home of Violette’s aunt and uncle, which she regularly visited in her lifetime; the F.A.N.Y. Memorial, Brockwood Military Cemetery, near Woking, Surrey (Panel 23, Column 3); the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (F.A.N.Y.) Memorial, St. Paul’s Church, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London; the S.O.E. Memorial on the Albert Embankment, opposite Lambeth Palace, London, which is surmounted by a bronze bust of Violette; sculpted by Karen Newman, it was unveiled in 2008; a plaque at the entrance to Lambeth Town Hall, London; a blue plaque at her former home, 18 Burnley Road, Stockwell, London; Violette Szabó House, Vincennes Council Estate, Rommany Road, West Norwood, London; a mural at Stockwell Road, London, which was painted on the exterior of the entrance to a deep-level shelter at the local Tube Station, by Brian Barnes, with the assistance of children from Violette’s old school, in 2001; a commemorative garden at Stockwell Park School, London; the S.O.E. Memorial at Tempsford, Bedfordshire; display at the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, Sussex; plaque unveiled at Ravensbrück, Germany in June 1993; name on S.O.E.’s Memorial at Valançay, France; street named after her in Quevauviller, France; plaque at Sussac, France, unveiled by her daughter, in June 2000

Origin of VC to the Lord Ashcroft collection: Purchased at auction, Dix Noonan Webb, London, 2017

Current location of VC: Displayed on rotation at The Lord Ashcroft Gallery: Extraordinary Heroes exhibition, Imperial War Museum