Edward Zeff  of SOE’s F (French) Section              "George 53"

Brighton-born Edward Zeff's service as a member of Britain's special forces during the Second World War will be honoured by way of a blue plaque at Embassy Court, which is where he lived after returning from his top secret mission in occupied France, subsequent capture and incarceration in a concentration camp.

Edward Zeff has long deserved to have his story told. He was born into a British Jewish family at 22 Hanover Crescent, Brighton on 22 April 1904 and educated at the York Place Elementary Schools.

He joined his older brother in Paris around 1922 to develop the family tailoring business there and returned to Britain, with his French wife, after the fall of France in 1940.

Zeff joined the Royal Signals of the British Army and then, despite scant knowledge of soldiering, and no experience of clandestine warfare, he volunteered for S.O.E. to work as a secret agent in enemy-held France in one of the most dangerous roles possible - that of radio operator.

German detection services were eventually hot on Edward Zeff's trail in the city of Lyons, but it was only when he was trying to return to Britain that he was betrayed and captured as he was about to cross the Pyrenees into Spain. Badly tortured and interrogated in Paris, he nevertheless held firm - only to then be sent to Mauthausen concentration camp.

As a Jew and a British agent, his fate should have been doubly sealed, yet somehow this remarkable man managed to survive. He was awarded the MBE (Military) and, by the French, the Croix de Guerre.

Edward Zeff returned to Brighton to live at 94 Embassy Court with his wife, but subsequently returned to his business in Paris and died there in 1973.

Research, photos and additional information courtesy of Christine Miller and the Zeff family, Paul McCue, Unicorn, IWM,

the Richardson Collection and Martin Sugarman

Recommended reading ....

BRIGHTON'S SECRET AGENTS

by Paul McCue

Winston Churchill authorised the creation of a new wartime secret service, the Special Operations Executive (SOE), with the order “And now set Europe ablaze”. On behalf of The Secret WW2 Learning Network, an educational charity dedicated to revealing hitherto-secret operations to the current generation, Paul McCue tells a main story of four Brighton and Hove-born agents being honoured with blue plaques - including Capt Edward Zeff.


He details the organisation’s creation and post-war demise, its training methods and the missions of the four chief subjects. He also covers three other agents, a special duties RAF pilot and the inspiration for ‘Q’, the inspired ‘boffin’ from the James Bond films – all of whom had links with the city.


Some enjoyed great success, others were doomed to failure and death, but all displayed the volunteer spirit and courage that saw Britain through the darkest days of the Second World War. Their stories, largely little-known, deserve to be told.


Paul McCue has been a part-time military historian and author for over 25 years. He has authored four books to date and regularly gives talks and presentations in England and France. He currently specialises in the French Section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and he is working on a three-volume roll of honour for this Second World War secret service.

FIGHTING BACK: British Jewry's Military Contribution in the Second World War: Anglo-Jewry's Contribution in the Second World War

by Martin Sugarman

This book is a response to the oft-perpetrated myths of British Jewry s lack of fighting spirit and its failure to participate in the Second World War. British Jewry has never formed more than about one half of 1 per cent of the population, yet the figures show that their contribution to the armed forces has always been out of proportion to their numbers. Fighting Back and the forthcoming companion volume by Henry Morris and Martin Sugarman, will stand as permanent testimony to the truth.

Martin Sugarman's book Fighting Back is a 'must have' for all members of AJEX and I would go so far as to say it should be in every Jewish home…The book, researched in a most scholarly manner over many years, whilst providing all the facts and figures, tells a moving and gripping story of which the Jewish community can be proud.

- Henry Morris, Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women
 

Martin Sugarman is the Archivist of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX) Military Museum in London. He has written extensively on Jewish Military History and has had many articles published in the UK, USA and Israel in various historical journals, and on the internet.

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