Odette: The Ordinary Woman Who Became A Resistance Heroine with Nigel Perrin - Context Travel

Odette: The Ordinary Woman Who Became A Resistance Heroine with Nigel Perrin


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Odette Sansom has become one of the most celebrated women agents of WW2. This Conversation explores her wartime career and her influence on the portrayal of female agents today.

Of all the female secret agents sent to work behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied France, only one of them ever became famous enough to be recognised by her first name alone - Odette. In 1942, Odette Sansom 's quiet life in rural England was turned upside down when she was asked to join a shadowy organisation aiding the French resistance. Trained as a courier, she and fellow agent Peter Churchill were sent undercover to build up teams of saboteurs along the Riviera, but they would soon fall prey to one of the Germans' most successful spy catchers, with disastrous results.

Betrayal and double-dealing led to Odette's arrest and horrendous torture at the hands of her Gestapo interrogators before she was deported to a concentration camp. However, despite months of similarly brutal treatment she would survive and even take the commandant's surrender in 1945. As the only living female agent to receive the George Cross, Odette quickly attracted huge media coverage, and her marriage to Churchill in 1947 became feted as a 'wedding of spies'. But their status as the most celebrated of agents also attracted criticism and controversy, questioning their portrayal as heroes of the Resistance and casting a shadow over their reputations.

This Conversation will trace Odette's extraordinary story, and explore how, in her own words, 'a very ordinary woman' became a symbol of bravery, defiance and endurance in the face of Nazi oppression. Led by an expert on the history of wartime secret services and French resistance, Dr Nigel Perrin, this interactive seminar will examine the life of secret agent Odette Hallowes. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of Odette's wartime career and its impact on secret agent history.

Nigel has long been fascinated by the history of France during the Occupation, particularly in relation to the work of British secret services, a subject he began studying in 2003. 'Spirit of Resistance', his biography of secret agent Harry Peulevé, was published in 2008. Having completed his MA in Modern History at the University of Kent in Paris in 2015, he has now begun a doctorate on a spatial history of Paris under Occupation.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.