Friday, September 23, 2011

Vera Atkins Memorial Seat Dedication Saturday 24 September 2011

I always like to be home from France by mid-August, because I need to be in sunny Derbyshire for the start of the drupe harvest.  Buckets and buckets of Warwickshire Drooper plums together with six varieties of apple (ok, so I like apples) and a sack of onions from the Asian food stores in Hyson Green were transformed as if by magic into a year's worth of Delia's finest spiced plum chutney.  Recipe and pictures hereMy jollies in France this summer meant I missed the tayberries.  I'd netted them off at the end of May, of course, but as I just threw the damned netting over the canes in a rather hurried fashion, it really wasn't surprising that I returned to a smug resident blackbird population and ZERO fruit.  I didn't make the same mistake with my mulberries, and when they started ripening during September on went the netting and off kept the blackbirds.

And then August filled up with weddings; two each week until last week.  Beautiful churches, handsome grooms, delightful brides; chinking flutes and everywhere women guests in fabulous hats and too much gossip.  Pane, amore e chi chi chi.  This week I went to my first funeral of the year.  On and on the year turns.  Tomorrow I'm off to the National Arboretum in Staffordshire.
At 12.30pm the Allied Special Forces Association will dedicate the Vera Atkins memorial seat remembering the women of the Special Operations Executive who lost their lives during WWII.  They really did give their tomorrows for my today, and my love affair with France.    

"Vera May Atkins was the Intelligence Officer- French Section of the SOE, formed on 22 July 1940 to conduct warfare by means other than direct military engagement.  SOE's mission was to encourage and facilitate espionage and sabotage behind enemy lines and to serve as the core of the Auxiliary Units, a British resistance movement. 

"As an exile from Romania Vera came to Britain before the start of the Second World War. She joined S.O.E and was soon managing most of the men and women agents who were being sent into France to carry out clandestine work behind enemy lines. This memorial seat is a tribute to her courage and that of her women agents who lost their lives. Her dedication and resolve to go into Europe and find out what had happened to them after the war ended was not well recognised, except by the families of those lost. The tree at the centre of the memorial seat was grown from a seed found in a Fir cone picked up in 2005 from inside the electric fence that bordered Natzweiler Concentration Camp, which is near the village of Moussey, in the Vosges mountains of eastern France.

"The Natzweiller Tree is also a special tribute to S.O.E. agents Andree Borrel, Vera Leigh, Diana Rowden and also to Sonia Olschanezky, who was a locally recruited member of Robin, a sub-circuit of the Prosper resistance network.

"After capture earlier in the year the four women were taken to Natzweiler Concentration Camp on the 6th July 1944 and executed by lethal injection and their bodies burnt in the camp crematorium that very evening. Three had landed in enemy territory to work as clandestine radio operators, couriers and resistance fighters to assist the French Resistance Forces. Eight other woman S.O.E. agents had also been captured and 4 executed at Dachau and 4 at Ravensbruck, including Lilian Rolfe, Denise Bloch, Cecily Lefort and Violette Szabo.

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