The True History of the Women of SOE – Mission France with Dr. Kate Vigurs (157)

Today, we bring you another engaging author interview on the Spybrary Podcast. We are chatting with historian Dr. Kate Vigurs about her new book Mission France.

Mission France tells the full story of the thirty-nine female SOE agents who went undercover in France.

Let me share a little bit about the book with you.

Mission France – The True Story of the Women of SOE

“The freshness and honesty of Mission France make it an ideal book for taking a new look at the secret war, at a time when knowledge of these brave women’s exploits is fading from living memory.”—Vin Arthey, The Scotsman

Formed in 1940, Special Operations Executive was to coordinate Resistance work overseas. The organization’s F section sent more than four hundred agents into France, thirty-nine of whom were women. But while some are widely known—Violette Szabo, Odette Sansom, Noor Inayat Khan—others have had their stories largely overlooked.

Kate Vigurs interweaves for the first time the stories of all thirty-nine female agents. Tracing their journeys from early recruitment to work undertaken in the field, to evasion from, or capture by, the Gestapo, Vigurs shows just how greatly missions varied. Some agents were more adept at parachuting. Some agents’ missions lasted for years, others’ less than a few hours. Some survived, others were murdered. By placing the women in the context of their work with the SOE and the wider war, this history reveals the true extent of the differences in their abilities and attitudes while underlining how they nonetheless shared a common mission and, ultimately, deserve recognition.


More about Dr. Kate Vigurs

Dr Kate Vigurs is a professional freelance historian whose PhD at the University of Leeds was entitled ‘The women agents of the Special Operations Executive F section – wartime realities and post war representations’.

Post-doctoral research included a study of UK Holocaust memorials during which she consulted the Prime Ministers commission at a conference at The National Holocaust centre and museum, and lectured at the Weiner library.  Kate was also an associate research assistant at the University of Leeds whilst working as academic advisor for the Yorkshire region on the BBC/AHRC project World War One at Home.

Kate regularly appears on TV and radio, from the National news covering topics such as the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, SOE, women in WWI, the land girls and Angela Merkel to local stories including VE day, D-day, the battle of Britain and many more.  She was a weapons expert on ‘Time Commanders’ and contributor on ‘World War Weird,’ ‘True Evil – the making of a Nazi,’ ‘Vera Atkins – spymistress,’ ‘Secrets of her Majesty’s secret service,’ The One show’ and ‘The Road to Victory’.

Kate is a tour guide for Anglia Tours covering the Western Front battlefields, Berlin and Krakow/Auschwitz.  Kate has recently done consultancy work for the Army Museums Ogilby Trust and South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum.

Kate has run a series of successful ‘lockdown lectures’ during the Covid-19 pandemic, but also speaks in person at a wide variety of venues including the National Memorial Arboretum, National Army Museum, IWM North, Royal Armouries, National Archives and Special Forces Club.

Kate also has her own live historical interpretation company ‘History’s Maid’ and regularly produces scripts, films and live performances for organisations such as English Heritage, Royal Armouries, National Army Museum, RAF Museum, and Imperial War Museums.  History’s Maid cover a wide variety of historical periods and Kate’s interests encompass everything from the Romans to the Cold War but especially Medieval and the world wars.

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