At what was the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s first-ever outdoor cinema event in a war cemetery, several members of the Secret WW2 Learning Network met at Brookwood on the evening of 30th September 2017 to watch the classic film ‘Carve Her Name With Pride’.
Members and supporters (Louisa Russell, Meryl Jones, Ann Palmer, Carol Browne, Paul McCue and Mark Yeats) met Tania Szabo and Virginia McKenna, both already known to our own Martyn Cox; and they also met (for the first time) Philippa Lorimer, the recently-appointed Commandant of the FANY (PRVC), who was there to honour Violette who'd also been a FANY. We wish Philippa well in her new role.
One of those attendees, Ann Palmer, has kindly submitted her personal description of the event:
Against the dramatic backdrop of Brookwood Memorial Cemetery, Tania Szabo first gave an unforgettable talk about her mother, Violette, a French Section SOE agent in Occupied France, during WW2. Tania’s talk was complemented by the presence of the renowned actress, Virginia McKenna, who played the part of Violette in the film. Behind a giant film screen, you could see the white circular 1939-45 memorial to the missing, on which Violette’s name is carved. Tall dark trees fringed the scene and ominous clouds threatened to drown us. Tania’s vivid and passionate account made you hold your breath as she related how twenty-three year old Violette entered Rouen, a hotbed of Nazi presence. On her first mission she was sent to help assess the damage to an existing SOE circuit, caused by the arrests of prominent resistance fighters. On her second, she parachuted into the Limousin region after D-Day to help the insurrection by the Résistance. In the film showing, you could marvel at the wounded heroine’s courage as she continued firing on the Nazis to enable another resister to flee. And when she refused a German officer’s cigarette and spat in his face, her hatred for the occupiers dug into the audience. The drizzling rain turned into a heavy and continuous downpour, soaking some of the unprepared audience, but making the scene even more realistic when you saw Violette working in her summer dress, in the depth of winter, on a work party away from the concentration camp, labouring on a Nazi construction project. Finally, and thanks to Ms McKenna’s intervention at the time with Lewis Gilbert, the film’s talented director, Violette’s facial expressions as she was about to be shot, vividly portrayed her determination, courage and utter hatred for the SS and all that they stood for.
CARVE HER NAME WITH PRIDE - International Movie Database & Wikipedia: