Women

Princess Royal Honours Wartime Heroine At London Paddington Station

Great Western Railway has adorned a train with the name Odette Hallowes to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

The Princess Royal has been to London Paddington station to honour a woman who became the most decorated spy of the Second World War.

A Great Western Railway train has been adorned with the name Odette Hallowes to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

Also known as Odette Churchill and Odette Sansom, she was a French woman married to an Englishman and living in the UK during the war.

During her time as an Allied intelligence officer, Odette fell in love with her commanding officer, Captain Peter Churchill.

After Nazi capture, she and her husband were starved, beaten and tortured in German concentration camps.

Even after being tortured, Odette did not reveal anything to the Gestapo and protected the lives of fellow spies Arnaud and Roger Cammaerts.

Grandchild, Sophie Parker said: "Whenever she was summoned to the Prison Commandant for an interrogation, her feet, having been terribly badly damaged through her torture, she would carry her shoes in her hands and walk all the way to his office.

"Before she went in, she would stop and put her shoes on and walk in with her head held high.

"She wanted to show them that they hadn't broken her body, they hadn't broken her spirit, and that they hadn't broken her sense of duty."

Her endeavours saw her become the first woman to be awarded the George Cross, and she was also given France’s highest honour. 

Addressing the gathering at Paddington station, Anne, the Princess Royal said: "Her bravery was inspirational and her survival, extraordinary."

Odette Sansom did not reveal secrets to the Gestapo, even after torture, and protected the lives of fellow spies (Picture: Mirror Books).

Tania Szabo's mother Violet was also a spy and was caught, imprisoned and tortured. She was executed in 1945.

Tania told Forced News, "As Sophie said, it represents all the women of SOE (Special Operations Executive) as well, particularly with the little symbols underneath for those that didn't return, and I think it's just wonderful.

"If Odette and Violet were here, they would be so chuffed."

After the Second World War, Odette Hallowes worked to promote the importance of female SOE agents during the war.

She also co-founded the International Women's Day Lunch.

Her life is the subject of the book 'Code Name: Lise'.