Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Vera Atkins: WWII Spy Boss

Vera's Concerns for Captured Agents


Paris was liberated from Germany in August 1944. Vera and Maurice traveled to France to examine the situation.

Later that same month, Vera returned to Britain. She filed casualty reports and combed through reports about missing agents. Of the 400 F Section agents sent to the field, more than a hundred, including sixteen women, were missing.

Yolande Beekman <em>(Public Domain Image)</em>
Yolande Beekman (Public Domain Image)
Reports of missing agent Yolande Beekman were distressing. A woman who worked in the area in which Yolande was based told the British Embassy in Paris that Yolande had been arrested on January 13, 1944. The informant continued, "She was brought back four days after her first arrest to the pharmacy. Her face was very swollen and she had obviously been badly treated. She was then taken away again to the local prison."

Vera requested that every Allied Service and the Red Cross pass on any word of missing F Section agents to her.

In mid-September Vera read a report on F Section wireless operator Marcel Rousset, alias Leopold. In the report, Marcel recounted how his Gestapo captors said they knew he was "Leopold," which he denied. They asked him to help them send messages. He agreed to. However, he deliberately misled them so they sent confusing messages to Britain. Vera knew that Marcel had sent bizarre messages to his superiors at the time he said he had.

Vera underlined names of F Section agents in this report who were on her list of the missing. One agent mentioned was a wireless operator named "Madeleine" whom Vera believed was Noor. Marcel had not seen her but only heard she was held elsewhere.

In March, Vera received alarming information that indicated F Section agents' families might be unable to ever know their fates. An inscription on the prison chart of a man the Germans captured as a spy read "N + N." This referred to prisoners who were to be treated under the Nacht and Nebel order that stated that both resisters and spies were to be made to disappear into the "night and fog."

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