Not exactly the premise of this blog, but fall to good to pass up, Charlotte Grey passed away recently at 98 years old. This sassy young lass was part of the French resistance and had a 5 million Franc bounty on her head.
So feminine was she that when escaping from pursuers on one notable occasion, she dressed in a smart frock, silk stockings, high-heeled shoes and a camel-hair coat, arguing that she didn’t want to look like a hunted woman.In that same outfit, she jumped from a moving train into a vineyard to avoid capture at a Nazi checkpoint. And so aggressive was she that, after being parachuted into France as a Special Operations Executive agent, she disposed of a German guard with her bare hands and liked nothing better than bowling along in the front seat of a fast car through the countryside, a Sten gun on her lap and a cigar between her teeth, in search of Germans to kill.
She led attacks on German convoys and even took on armoured cars. When asked why she insisted on travelling in the lead vehicle, she said it was because she couldn’t bear dust being thrown up in her face by cars in front.In one mini-battle, her car was strafed by German fighter planes but she crawled out of the wreck, hanging onto her prized possessions — a jar of face cream, a packet of tea and a satin cushion.When the roads were too dangerous to travel by car, she cycled more than 300 miles in three days to find a working radio set to contact London.Nancy never lost her softer side, for all the horrors of war. Two American weapons instructors dropped into her forest hideout found a jar of flowers beside their makeshift beds.
But for all the feminine wiles she employed to get what she wanted, she knew where to draw the line. She was loyal to Henri, the husband she loved.Any Maquis who fancied his chances was rebuffed. ‘If I had accommodated one, the word would have spread and they’d have been coming over the mountains for more,’ she once explained. ‘So, no love affairs, and that was that.’This was made clear from the start. When she dropped into the Auvergne, her parachute snagged on a tree. The agent who met her simpered that he hoped all trees could bear such beautiful fruit. ‘Don’t give me that French s**t,’ she snapped back.