May 2018 Speaker
Once again the meeting was well attended despite the very hot weather. We were pleased to welcome Dr Vivien Newman, a local resident, who over a number of years has researched and published many books on First World War Women. Her talk was entitled ‘They Shoot Spies’ - the untold story of the first female agents.
She explored the lives and actions of two Belgian women and one French woman whose espionage made a significant contribution to the Allied cause. One of these ladies was probably the only person to have been decorated by France, Belgium, Great Britain and Germany after the war.
Viv explained how some of the spies were actually German nurses who as well as caring for their own personnel, also tended the soldiers who were prisoners of war. They were therefore able to collect information from both sides passing it onto the contacts where their allegiances lay. Others were young girls who through their work in bars and entertainment were able to extract important information from the soldiers and earn more money by passing their knowledge onto allied forces.
She also explained to us that although we believe Switzerland was said to be neutral during the war, they were involved in an undercover way.
A number of spies came over to England and attended spy training in Kent. The building is still there at 8 Marine Parade, Folkestone.