Last year I talked to Greg Lewis about the female agents in the British Special Operations Executive, SOE, who Churchill had tasked with “setting Europe ablaze”. In this episode we’ll be looking specifically at Diana Rowden who was flown into France in 1943.
Diana spent her early years in the South of France before being sent to Public School in England. At the outbreak of war Diana was living in Paris with her mother. When Paris fell they fled south, but once her mother was safely on a boat back to England, Diana decided to remain in France. For over a year she moved through France avoiding being picked up by the Germans, when it got to "hot" she fled back to Britain.
When she finally became know to SOE she was an obvious fit for an agent to be sent to France. It was a huge risk and only a matter of time before she was picked up, which indeed she was. With four other women she was murdered at Natzweiler Concentration Camp in July 1944. She was 29 years of age.
I’m joined by Gabrielle McDonald-Rothwell.
Gabrielle’s book Her Finest Hour: The Heroic Life of Diana Rowden, Wartime Secret Agent takes the reader through Dianna’s life”.
I didn't realise when I started chatting to Gabrielle but she is married to Geoffrey Rothwell, he flew over 70 missions before being shot down. For patrons and supporters of the podcast I've made available a quick conversation I had with Gabrielle about her husband.
Between 1943-45 Fernaufklärungsgruppe 5 “Atlantik” would fly missions of up to 18 hours at a time over the Atlantic. They acted as the eyes for the U-Boats. Equipped with big, four-engined Junkers Ju 290s fitted out with advanced search radar and other maritime 'ELINT' (electronic intelligence) devices, Fernaufklärungsgruppe (FAGr) 5 'Atlantik' undertook a distant, isolated campaign far out into the Atlantic and thousands of miles away from its home base in western France.
I'm joined by Robert Forsyth author of Shadow over the Atlantic: The Luftwaffe and the U-boats: 1943–45.
Robert is an author, editor and publisher, specialising in military aviation and military history. Born in Berkshire, England, he is the author of several books on the aircraft and units of the Luftwaffe, an interest he has held since boyhood. His articles have appeared in The Aviation Historian, Aeroplane Monthly, Aviation News and FlyPast and he is a member of the Editorial Board of The Aviation Historian. Long-term, he is working on a major biography of the Luftwaffe commander, Generalfeldmarschall Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen.