The FANY supported the Special Operations Executive (SOE) Wreath Laying Service at Westminster Abbey today (10 November).
The SOE was formed in July 1940 on Winston Churchill’s orders to ‘set Europe ablaze’. The purpose was to organise active resistance to the Germans by any means possible, legal or illegal, gentlemanly or otherwise. One major contribution by the FANY to the work of the SOE was in Communications, in both Signals and Cipher departments, where they received intensive training on Morse code. Many FANYs were posted to Grendon Underwood listening station, waiting to receive messages from the agents, because wireless was the most valuable link between the FANY operators based in the UK and the agents on the ground.
Another major contribution was the FANY agents in the field: they worked mainly in France. Thirty-nine of the 50 women sent into France were FANYs. Women were able move around much more freely, because, since over 1.6 million French men had been deported by the Germans into forced labour, male Resistance fighters were dangerously conspicuous. The FANY had to have perfect knowledge of France, very good (though not necessarily perfect) French, and few family ties. For more information about the FANYs involvement in the SOE, please click here.