In June 1952, a woman was murdered by an obsessive colleague in a hotel in South Kensington. Her name was Christine Granville. That she died young was perhaps unsurprising, but that she had survived the Second World War was remarkable.
The daughter of a feckless Polish aristocratic and his wealthy Jewish wife, she would become one of Britain’s most daring and highly decorated secret agents. Having fled Poland on the outbreak of war, she was recruited by the intelligence services long before the establishment of the SOE, and took on mission after mission. She skied over the hazardous High Tatras into Poland, served in Egypt and North Africa and was later parachuted into Occupied France, where an agent’s life expectancy was only six weeks.
Her courage, quick wit and determination won her release from arrest more than once, and saved the lives of several fellow officers, including one of her many lovers, just hours before their execution by the Gestapo. More importantly, perhaps, the intelligence she gathered was a significant contribution to the Allied war effort and her success was reflected in the fact that she was awarded the George Medal, the OBE and the Croix de Guerre.
Apocryphally dubbed Churchill's favorite spy and possibly the inspiration for Ian Fleming's Vesper Lynd, Warsaw-born Christine Granville (1908 1952) was the "willfully independent" daughter of a charming but dissolute and caddish Polish aristocrat and a Jewish banking heiress. In England, following Germany's invasion of Poland in 1939, Granville, armed with "her gift for languages, her adroit social skills, formidable courage and lust for life," volunteered for the British Secret Intelligence Service and hatched a bold plan to ski into Poland from Hungary, via the Carpathian mountains, in order to deliver British propaganda to Warsaw and return with intelligence on the Nazi occupation. In other heroic feats, Granville parachuted into occupied France to join a Resistance sabotage network, bribed the Gestapo for the release of three of her comrades just two hours before their execution, and persuaded a Polish garrison conscripted into the Wehrmacht to switch allegiances. Getting short shrift from Britain after the war, Granville supported herself with odd jobs before becoming a stewardess on an ocean liner, where she met the man who would fall for her and become her murderer. Mulley (The Woman Who Saved the Children) gives a remarkable, charismatic woman her due in this tantalizing biography. 16 pages of b&w photos & 2 maps.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Amazing book about an amazing lady
No one of my generation can imagine what the events of Christine's life were really like or even what motivated her. This book goes a long way to defining and describing the hopes fears and aspirations behind the many and varied actions of a single polish Jewish semi-aristocratic woman.
My background is also polish Jewish and there is much here I can identify with. The narrow minded Britishness persisted when in the early 1970s I tried to join the RAF but couldn't because my father was only a naturalised Brit.