SOE Training

Qualities that made Violette stand out to the SOE was her fluency in French and her physique. After being accepted into the SOE, Violette went through intensive training courses throughout the day and night, in unarmed combat, identification of German and Allied weapons, demolitions, communications and cryptography. 

Inquiry question 2: How and why did Violette join the SOE?

During 1941, Violette enlisted herself with the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), serving with an anti-craft battery. June 1942 she gave birth to Tania and months later Etienne was killed whilst fighting close to El Alamein. Etienne’s death was the final push forward Violette needed. 

In June 1943 Violette met agent Harry Peulevé who had recommended one of Violette’s friends as a potential SOE officer but she was rejected. At the end of her interview Violette’s friend recommended Violette. After meeting SOE recruiting officer Selwyn Jepson, Violette was accepted and began training as a courier. 

The life that I…

The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours
The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours

A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause

For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours
And yours

Leo Marks, the English cryptographer for the British SOE (Special Operations Executive), used poems to encrypt messages. He believed poems that have been published were insecure because enemy cryptographers were able to locate the poem from published sources and be able to solve the message. To counter this, Marks used his own written creations. ‘The Life That I Have’, an original poem composed on Christmas Eve 1943 and was written by Marks in memory of his lover, Ruth, who had recently died in a plane crash in Canada. On 24 March 1944, the poem was issued by Marks to Violette Szabo. Violette was touched by the poem and asked who had written it, Mark brushed off the question with a promise to find out.

Inquiry question 1: Where is Tania Szabo now?

Tania Szabo, the only child of Violette and Etienne Szabo was born in June 1942. She lived with her grandparents, on her ninth birthday, Tania and her grandparents bought tickets for £10 and set sail for Australia. She attended college in Armidale in NSW and as psychiatric nurse in Sydney, she returned to England in 1963 (aged 21).

Tania worked as a secretary, croupier, office administrator in several companies, completing a course in computing in the late 60’s (cards with holes and no electronics). She spent a year at Beverly Hills studying Spanish whilst completing a humanities course. She returned to England and opened her Language Studio with the help of Paul Emile Francis Holley, Violette’s friend. Paul trained her in the recognition of German armaments and uniforms because he was a British Intelligence Officer during WW2.

Tania is an author, a professional multilingual translator and a private tutor. She has translated the work of Avv. Mario Zacchi author of The Neapolitan Mastiff.

On 29th April 2009, Intelligence Officer Paul Holley, Tania’s mentor and friend died a month into his 9th decade. Tania has retired and closed her Language Studio. She lives in Wales. She is currently completing her paperback version of Young Brave and Beautiful and soon to start writing Etienne’s life story.