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SOE Family Day – 15th July 2006

This was the third consecutive annual gathering at Tangmere of those once associated with the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and their families. The Mueum is the natural venue for such an event given the wartime Lysander operations from RAF Tangmere to fly agents into and out of occupied France.

Organised by the Museum in association with Michael Buckmaster, the son of Colonel Maurice Buckmaster, Head of ‘F’ (French) Section, SOE the event was attended by a total of some 70 people. The most celebrated guest was Nancy Wake (code name “The White Mouse”), now 96 years of age. Initially a courier with the Resistance, she travelled to Britain in 1943 and joined F Section. She was assigned to the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) and in April 1944, was parachuted into the Auvergne region of central France where she established and led an army of 7000 Maquis in guerrilla warfare and sabotage operations.

Another name forever associated with the SOE is Violette Szabo, captured by the SS and executed at Ravensbruck concentration camp, and later awarded a posthumous George Cross. Her daughter, Tania, could not attend this time round but sent a very poignant message to be narrated to the assembled throng.

Given that Sqn Ldr Hugh Verity commanded the Lysander Flight for a lengthy period and flew more missions into France than any other special duties pilot, it was good to see members of his family in attendance. A bonus for them was a visit to ‘Tangmere Cottage’ – the requisitioned house in the village which constituted the Flight’s operational base.
By popular acclaim, the occasion was again a great success – roll on 2007!

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