Jacqueline Nearne MBE, CdeG of SOE’s F (French) Section - code name "Designer"

Jacqueline Françoise Mary Josephine Nearne was born in Brighton at 32 West Hill Street on 27 May 1916.


The family relocated to London and in 1923 to France, eventually to Nice where Jacqueline finished her schooling and became a sales representative for an office equipment company. After the fall of France in 1940 the Nearnes moved to near Grenoble, in the unoccupied zone.

In April 1942 Jacqueline and her sister Eileen reached England via Spain and Portugal and in July Jacqueline joined the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (F.A.N.Y.), for secondment to French Section, S.O.E. After training she was approved as a courier to the STATIONER circuit and parachuted into France with her circuit leader, Maurice Southgate on 25 January 1943.

 

Jacqueline carried messages to and from the Résistance cells and other circuit members, meaning long and tiring train journeys over a huge area. After over a year’s strenuous work, she was exhausted and flown back to Britain on 9/10 April 1944. Following recuperation and additional training Jacqueline declared herself ready to return to active duty, but Allied advances in France negated her return.


She was awarded the MBE (Military) and, by the French, the Croix de Guerre. Post-war, Jacqueline worked for the UN organisation in New York until retirement and her return to England in 1978, but only four years later she died of cancer on 15 August 1982, aged 66 years.

Jacqueline Nearne's wartime service as a member of Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE) will be honoured by a blue plaque being placed on the house in West Hill Street, Brighton that had been her family's home and was her birthplace 100 years ago.

Research, photos and additional information courtesy of Paul McCue, Unicorn, the Richardson Collection and Susan Ottaway

Scroll further down this page for recommended reading and viewing ....

SECRET, SISTERS AND SACRIFICE: The True Story of WWII Special Agents Eileen and Jacqueline Nearne

by Susan Ottaway

Two sisters. Two special agents. One War.


Sisters, Secrets and Sacrifice is the incredible true story of British special agents Eileen and Jacqueline Nearne, two sisters who risked everything to fight for our freedom during the Second World War.


The death of an eccentric recluse is rarely an event to be given more than a few lines in a local newspaper. But when, in September 2010, police were called to a tiny, cluttered flat in Torquay and discovered the body of local ‘cat lady’ Eileen Nearne, they also found a small bundle of possessions that told an amazing story.


For Eileen Nearne had been an agent for the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War, going undercover in Nazi-occupied France to send wireless messages of crucial importance to the Allies. Astonishingly, Eileen was not the only special agent in the family – her sister Jacqueline had also been an SOE. Rarely had two members of the same family sacrificed so much to such dangerous work.


Sisters, Secrets and Sacrifice pays tribute to these fiercely patriotic women with hearts of courage, who fought for freedom at much personal cost. While Jacqueline narrowly avoided capture several times, tirelessly couriering secret documents for the resistance, Eileen was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo before being incarcerated at Ravensbrück concentration camp. She was only 23.
 

This is a true story of triumph and tragedy, of two sisters who sacrificed themselves to defend our freedom, who stood shoulder to shoulder during the darkest of days.

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 Lt Jacqueline Nearne MBE. CdeG of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, aka the FANY.


He details the organisation’s creation and post-war demise, its training methods and the missions of the four chief subjects; and 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.

NOW IT CAN BE TOLD (1946)

Now It Can Be Told is a feature-length government information film about SOE which 'stars' Jacquline Nearne and her fellow French Section agent Harry Rée, and was produced by the RAF Film Production Unit and released in 1946.


This film is considered 'required viewing' by many with a serious interest in SOE not only because it features these two 'real' agents but also because so many details of the work of SOE have been preserved on film.

 

But what makes Now It Can Be Told equally remarkable - although noted less often - is that during 1944 and 1945 a number of SOE and RAF personnel who had actually carried these 'top secret' clandestine operations were recreating them on camera, and yet while this filming was taking place the Special Operations Executive - a specially created wartime secret service - was still in existence and the Second World War wasn't even over. (SOE was officially disbanded in January 1946.)
 

A shorter version of Now It Can Be Told was also produced for subsequent 'theatrical release' to public cinemas, but with the title “School for Danger”.  (Images c. IWM)

BEHIND ENEMY LINES: Gender, Passing and the Special Operations Executive in the Second World War

by Dr Juliette Pattinson

Behind enemy lines is an examination of gender relations in wartime using the Special Operations Executive as a case study. Drawing on personal testimonies, in particular oral history and autobiography, as well as official records and film, it explores the extraordinary experiences of male and female agents who were recruited and trained by a British organisation and infiltrated into Nazi-Occupied France to encourage sabotage and subversion during the Second World War.

 

With its original interpretation of a wealth of primary sources, it examines how these ordinary, law-abiding civilians were transformed into para-military secret agents, equipped with silent killing techniques and trained in unarmed combat. This fascinating, timely and engaging book is concerned with the ways in which the SOE veterans reconstruct their wartime experiences of recruitment, training, clandestine work and for some, their captivity, focusing specifically upon the significance of gender and their attempts to pass as French civilians.

 

This examination of the agents of an officially-sponsored insurgent organisation makes a major contribution to British socio-cultural history, war studies and gender studies and will appeal to both the general reader, as well as to those in the academic community.Behind enemy lines draws on personal testimonies, official records and film to explore the experiences of male and female clandestine agents who were recruited and trained by a British organisation and infiltrated into Nazi-Occupied France to encourage sabotage and subversion during the Second World War.

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