Eileen Nearne died 2nd September. You may not have heard of her, as most of us certainly had not. Having lived for the past twenty years or so in a quiet seaside flat in Devon, it was only after her death that the story of Miss Nearne's earlier heroic deeds in service to England are becoming known:
14 September 2010
War heroine found dead in Devon to have council funeral
A wartime heroine who was captured three times by the Germans and endured spells in concentration and labour camps is to be buried by a council because no friends or family can be traced.
Eileen Nearne, 89, who died in her Devon home on 2 September, was one of 39 female agents sent to occupied France in her capacity as a member of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during World War II.
Miss Nearne, who was fluent in French, was captured by the Germans just four months after arriving in France, but managed to persuade them she was an innocent French woman.
Her bravery and resilience continued throughout the war - she was caught again and sent to a concentration camp before being transferred to a forced labour camp in Silesia where she managed to escape.
She was later recaptured in Germany by the SS, but was again able to persuade her captors of her innocence and was released.
According to reports, she was hidden by a priest in Leipzig until the arrival of US troops.
Despite her daring adventures on the continent in the 1940s, Miss Nearne survived the war and ended her days in Torquay.
She was found dead at her home in Lisburne Square, off Babbacombe Road, on 2 September and her possessions are to be handed over to MI5.
Professor Michael Foot, who wrote a book about SOEs, described Miss Nearne as "a real heroine, although a silent one".
He told BBC News: "I came across her some 50 years ago and found she had done some important work in the spring and summer of 1944 when she was working a secret wireless set from Paris to England. (BBC Devon here)
When she was first found in her flat, it was presumed that she had no living relatives. Since then the Royal British Legion has stepped up, and a niece has also come forward:
The spy who we loved: Eileen Nearne was cherished says niece
Relative of modest wartime heroine is traced and says her intrepid aunt wanted her ashes scattered at sea
Eileen Nearne during the second world war,
when she served as a spy.
Concerns that the funeral of a British second world war spy who died alone at her seaside flat would pass unremarked vanished today when a relative came forward and former service personnel vowed to give her a proper send-off.
The story of 89-year-old Eileen Nearne's heroic exploits as a radio operator in occupied France emerged after Torbay council revealed it could not trace any of her relatives.
It seemed likely that Nearne would be buried in a modest grave by the council, with no one expected at the funeral service.
However, today a niece, who lives abroad, surfaced to pay tribute to "Aunt Eileen" and to reveal that Nearne wanted her ashes scattered at sea.
The niece, who has asked not to be named and was traced by genealogists at investigations firm Kin, said Nearne was cherished by her family.
She said she was distressed that Nearne had been portrayed as being "alone or unloved" adding: "Although I don't live in the UK, I was very close to Aunt Eileen and visited her often. I only saw her six months ago. She was always cherished by the family."
Details of Nearne's amazing personal history emerged after old French currency, correspondence written in French and several medals were discovered among her possessions at her Torquay flat.