Krystyna Skarberg aka Christine Granville : the greatest spy of WWII ?

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Krystyna Skarberg aka Christine Granville : the greatest spy of WWII ?

Post by DavidFrankenberg » 02 Aug 2020 20:10


she is said to have been the inspiration for James Bond. She was polish, jewish, English and French also in some way :)

Born in Poland from a jewish mother and a polish aristocrat, she decided to fight for the SIS.
She did many missions. She survived in many eccentric ways.
Her code name was the French name "Christine Granville".

She is famous, also for her strange death, killed by a disappointed lover.

Some books have been written about her.

I have read that she was sent in Italy on the track of the Ciano's diaries in fall of 43 and early 1944. I wonder in what extent is it true ?

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Re: Krystyna Skarberg aka Christine Granville : the greatest spy of WWII ?

Post by lucchesa » 13 Oct 2020 22:06

Hi David
I wonder if you ever found out more about this from anyone? I came across the same recently here ... azzo-ciano. It's also unsourced. I've been trying to follow up but not getting anywhere. Edda C does appear to have been in close contact w/ Delia di Bagno around this time (per Moseley etc.), and Delia's mother (Countess Laurenzana) was very close w/the US diplomatic corp when the war started according a thesis ( ... onnors.pdf). I followed up in a biography of Granville by Ron Nowicki, ... 974&sr=8-1, and it is curious that Granville was in fact studying Italian and expecting to be deployed in Italy sometime in late 1943/1944. They were all part of that skiing / aristocratic set, and I can easily see that Granville might well have known people like Pucci, Bagno, and perhaps even Susanna (Suni) Angelli (who per OSS files appears to have been involved in some capacity in the OSS side of the Ciano diaries matter in Switzerland). What's also a bit curious is Granville's connection to Hungarian aristocratic circles and the fact that was a plan to try to have Galeazzo Ciano escape to Hungary, where apparently there was an offer from an unnamed Hungarian aristocrat to shelter him. But Nowicki's book seems to suggest (though not definitive) that Granville was in Cairo in 1943/1944 and went from there straight to her mission in France--though there are some undated references to her crossing the Italian border at least twice.
Just curious if you ever got anywhere with this. It actually makes sense in a way of some things (the Pessini business is very elliptical) but I cannot find any sources to support this anywhere.
Cheers TJ

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Re: Krystyna Skarberg aka Christine Granville : the greatest spy of WWII ?

Post by henryk » 24 Oct 2022 19:20 ... [quote]New film tells story of WWII Polish secret agent
Polish Radio 24.10.2022 17:30

A new movie exploring the extraordinary story of Krystyna Skarbek, a WWII Polish female secret agent who worked for British intelligence, is being filmed in Warsaw. Krystyna Skarbek, who was known in Western world as Christine Granville, was the first and longest-serving female special agent working for Britain in World War II. The film about her life, directed by James Marquand, has a working title of The Partisan. It features Morgan Polanski portraying the role of Skarbek and is slated for release in 2024.

"I knew very little about Krystyna Skarbek," British actor Steven Waddington, who filmed his part in Warsaw over the weekend, told Radio Poland's Danuta Isler. He added: "The director just sent me the script, and I read it and it was like a female James Bond movie, with so much tension, action and adventure, intrigue in the script. Judging by the location and some of the footage that they have shown me it's going to absolutely spectacular."
aria Krystyna Janina Skarbek, OBE, GM (Polish pronunciation: [krɨˈstɨna ˈskarbɛk]; 1 May 1908 [a][4] – 15 June 1952), also known as Christine Granville,[2] was a Polish agent of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War. She became celebrated for her daring exploits in intelligence and irregular-warfare missions in Nazi-occupied Poland and France. Journalist Alistair Horne, who described himself in 2012 as one of the few people still alive who had known Skarbek, called her the "bravest of the brave."[5] Spymaster Vera Atkins of the SOE described Skarbek as "very brave, very attractive, but a loner and a law unto herself."[6]

She became a British agent months before the SOE was founded in July 1940. She was the first female agent of the British to serve in the field and the longest-serving of all Britain's wartime women agents.[7] Her resourcefulness and success have been credited with influencing the organisation's decision to recruit more women as agents in Nazi-occupied countries.[8] In 1941 she began using the alias Christine Granville, a name she legally adopted upon naturalisation as a British subject in December 1946.[9][10]

Skarbek's most famous exploit was securing the release of SOE agents Francis Cammaerts and Xan Fielding from a German prison hours before they were to be executed. She did so by meeting (at great personal risk) with the Gestapo commander in Digne-les-Bains, France, telling him she was a British agent, and persuading him with threats, lies, and a two million franc bribe to release the SOE agents. The event is fictionalized in the last episode of the British television show Wish Me Luck.

Skarbek is often characterized in terms such as Britain's "most glamorous spy."[11] She was stabbed to death in 1952 in London by an obsessed and spurned suitor who was subsequently hanged.
Maquisards (Resistance fighters) in the vicinity of Savournon in the Hautes-Alpes in August 1944. SOE agents are second from right, (possibly) Skarbek, third John Roper, fourth, Robert Purvis.[55]
The SOE had several branches working in France. Though most of the women in France answered to F Section in London, Skarbek's mission was launched from Algiers, the base of AMF Section. AMF Section was only set up in the wake of Operation Torch, the Allied landings in North Africa, partly with staff from London (F Section) and partly with staff from Cairo (MO.4). AMF Section served three purposes: (1) it was simpler and safer to run the resupply operations from Allied North Africa than from London, across German-occupied France; (2) The South of France was to be liberated by separate Allied landings there (Operation Dragoon), SOE units in the area needed be supplied by their headquarters in Algiers, not by London; and, (3) AMF Section tapped into the skills of the French living in North Africa.[56]

With the two invasions in Normandy and southern France in summer 1944, these distinctions became irrelevant, and almost all the SOE Sections in France were united with the Maquis into the Forces Francaises de l'Interieur (FFI). (There was one exception: The EU/P Section, which was formed by Poles in France and remained part of the trans-European Polish Resistance movement, under Polish command.)[57]

Skarbek, now more commonly known as Christine Granville, parachuted into France on the night of 6/7 July 1944. She became part of the Jockey network headed by Francis Cammaerts, Belgian-British in nationality and a former pacifist.[58] The job of Cammaerts and his team was to organize the French resistance fighters, the maquis, in southeastern France to weaken the German occupiers prior to the Allied invasion of southern France, Operation Dragoon, which would take place on 15 August. Skarbek was Cammaerts' courier, replacing Cecily Lefort who had been captured by the Germans and would be executed. She also had been given the task of attempting to subvert the Polish conscripts in the German army who were stationed along the Franco-Italian border.[59]
When the SOE teams returned from France (or in some cases, were given 24 hours to depart by de Gaulle) in autumn 1944, some of the British women sought new missions in the Pacific War, where the war with the Empire of Japan continued; but Skarbek, as a Pole, was ideally placed to serve as a courier for missions to her homeland. As the Red Army advanced across Poland, the British government and Polish government-in-exile worked together to leave a network in place that would report on events in the People's Republic of Poland. Kowerski and Skarbek were now fully reconciled with the Polish forces and were preparing to be dropped into Poland in early 1945. However, the mission, called Operation Freston, was cancelled because the first party to enter Poland were captured by the Red Army (they were released in February 1945).[70]
Post-war life
After the war, Skarbek was left without financial reserves or a native country to return to. Xan Fielding, whom she had saved from execution by the Gestapo, wrote in his 1954 book, Hide and Seek, dedicated "To the memory of Christine Granville":

After the physical hardship and mental strain she had suffered for six years in our service, she needed, probably more than any other agent we had employed, security for life. […] Yet a few weeks after the armistice she was dismissed with a month's salary and left in Cairo to fend for herself... though she was too proud to ask for any other assistance, she did apply for the protection of a British passport; for ever since the Anglo-American betrayal of her country at Yalta she had been virtually stateless. But the naturalization papers […] were delayed in the normal bureaucratic manner. Meanwhile, abandoning all hope of security, she embarked on a life of uncertain travel, as though anxious to reproduce in peace time the hazards she had known during the war...[78]

One of the other SOE agents Skarbek had rescued, Francis Cammaerts, named his daughter Christine (born 1948) after her.[79]

Unable to find work, Skarbek went to Nairobi, Kenya Colony to join Michael Dunford, an old lover, but the British colonial government turned down her application for a work permit. She returned to London where she became in turn a telephone operator, a salesperson, a waitress, and a cabin steward on ocean liners.

Her reward for her heroism was to be left penniless.

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