This week's hero is not an American, but a freedom fighter and hero just the same.
On September 2, an eighty-nine year old woman, by the name of Eileen Nearne, was discovered to have died alone in her Torquay, England apartment. What makes this story significant is that when the authorities, in the absence of any known, living relatives, entered her apartment. They were searching for any form of documentation that might identify, and lead to, next-of-kin to take charge of the funeral arrangements. What they found revealed that this aged, penniless, recluse was not your average little old lady. Ms. Nearne was in fact agent "Rose" during World War II.
Agent "Rose", a member of the British Special Operations Executive, who at the age of twenty-three, parachuted into France to fight the Nazis in 1944. She worked undercover coordinating the efforts of the resistance and spies with the Allied war effort and operating a wireless radio for the Wizard network. Four months after entering France, her transmitter was detected and she was arrested, and tortured, by the Nazi secret police, the Gestapo. She was released due to the inability of the Gestapo to ascertain her true identity. Her French was too good to be a foreigner, owing to a childhood spent in France.
Ms. Nearne was arrested several weeks later and imprisoned at the Ravensbrueck Concentration Camp. She was later transferred to a forced labor camp in Silesia. She escaped from the camp, was re-arrested and escaped again to continue her work with the resistance.
After the war, Ms. Nearne was awarded Croix de Guerre by France, and appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire, in recognition of her services. She lived most of her post war life with her sister in London, and moved to Torquay, on the English coast, after her sister's death in 1982.
Ms. Nearne is survived by a niece, Odile Nearne, who lived in Italy and was, despite appearances, close to her secret agent aunt and visited often, including a visit not six months prior. Ms. Nearne's mortal remains were not treated to the ignominy of a pauper's funeral, instead she was honored at a service provided by the British Legion on September 21, 2010 at Our Lady Help of Christians and St Denis Roman Catholic Church, Torquay. Twenty-one standard bearers, two pipers and her niece formed the honor guard around her flag draped coffin, and her remains scattered at sea according to her last wishes.
Eileen Mary "Didi" Nearne is a true hero to the entire free world, and I am proud to tell her story and glad that she did not pass from this veil unlauded and unknown. She faced down the the worst that Nazis could deliver, and never gave up, never backed down and ensured that justice would be served to a cruel, unjust and tyrannical regime. Rest well agent "Rose", you are gone but not forgotten by a grateful world.