Hundreds honour WWII heroine on anniversary

By Chris Were   |   Reporter   |
Sunday 24th July 2022 10:00 am
@ChrsWr
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Rosemary Rigby in new reading room.

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Hundreds of wellwishers turned up on a scorching hot Sunday (July 10) at Wormelow Tump to celebrate the 100th anniversary of wartime heroine Violette Szabo GC.

A parade from the village park marched to the museum headed by highland piper, Simon Addison. The final stage was led by the racehorse named after Violette Szabo and ridden by her usual jockey Faye McManoman. After assembling in front of the museum for a group photograph, a one-minute silence was observed followed by the hymn Jerusalem sung by Ruby Ann.

A message was played from actress Virginia McKenna, who played her in the 1958 film Carve Her Name With Pride, including a heartfelt rendition of Violette’s poem “The Life That I Have”, followed by speeches from invited guests, including international author Sophie Poldermans as well as Violette’s daughter Tania.

The closure of the Violette Szabo Museum during the pandemic enabled the doubling of its size by the addition of a reading room, thanks to builder Joe Price. The ribbon to the reading room was cut by the Mayor of Lambeth, Pauline George; Lambeth is the part of London where Violette once lived.

A flypast by a Hurricane, one of the fighter planes that won the Battle of Britain, capped off the day of celebration.

Violette Szabo was parachuted into Nazi-occupied France, captured, tortured and killed at the age of 23. She was the second woman to be awarded the George Cross, bestowed posthumously on December 17, 1946.

The citation was published in the London Gazette and described her as having “great presence of mind and astuteness”.

It added that she was twice arrested by the Germans but each time managed to get away, but with other members of her group was surrounded by the Gestapo in a house in the south-west of France.

Szabo took a Sten-gun and ammunition, barricaded herself in part of the house, and exchanged shots with the Gestapo, killing or wounding several of them.

Despite being tortured, it was reported that she resisted giving away any useful information before she was executed.

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