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Home   Sheerness   News   Article

Former Eastchurch woman's wartime story of her heroic fight against Nazis is revealed in Canadian writer Robyn Walker’s new book

28 March 2014
by Lewis Dyson

A former Sheppey woman’s past as a teenage spy in Nazi-occupied France during the Second World War has been revealed.

Sonia d’Artois, nee Butt, who was born in Eastchurch, was parachuted in near Le Mans nine days before D-Day aged just 19.

The 89-year-old’s exploits have come to light in Robyn Walker’s new book, The Women Who Spied for Britain.

Sonia d'Artois in July 2011 at her grandson's wedding

Sonia d'Artois in July 2011 at her grandson's wedding

It tells how Mrs d’Artois set about recruiting, arming and training French Resistance members.

She had joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force aged 18 where - having spent most of her childhood in France - her second language skills brought her to the attention of Special Operations Executive, the British espionage organisation.

While training, she met and married Canadian spy Guy d’Artois.

Her landing in France did not go to plan as a container carrying her wardrobe was picked up by an enemy patrol, alerting them to the fact there was a female spy in their midst.

Despite this setback, Mrs d’Artois, who was known as Agent Blanche, refused to lay low and began work immediately.

Her expertise with explosives was in high demand among the Resistance fighters and she became known for her fearlessness, taking part in night-time ambushes against convoys.

Mrs d’Artois used her looks to establish friendly relations with the occupying forces, in particular one German colonel.

Sonia and Guy d'Artois on their wedding day

Sonia and Guy d'Artois on their wedding day

Her cover was nearly blown one evening when, as the two were chatting in a cafe, her handbag slipped off her chair and made a revolver inside made a loud metallic clunk on the floor.

She had the sense he knew what it was so, thinking fast, she pulled out a forged firearms permit signed by the Gestapo.

Her pretence of being friendly to German troops almost landed her in trouble after the liberation when a group of French troops grabbed her and accused her of being a collaborator.

Luckily the incident was spotted by her friends in the Resistance who explained who she was and she was freed.

She was reunited with her husband in September 1944 and they moved to Quebec in 1946 where they raised six children.

Now a grandmother, and living outside of Montreal, she is suffering from Alzheimer’s, but is cared for by her family.

Mrs d’Artois was later made an MBE in recognition for her services and was mentioned in dispatches.

Author Robyn Walker said when she first heard of Mrs d'Artois she was excited.

"Since she had a link to Canada, and I was desperately trying to find a Canadian woman who had worked in the capacity of clandestine operative," she said.

"Secondly I think I felt an immediate connection to her story. She was exactly who I would have wanted to be if I had lived during the war.

"I saw some of myself, at 20, in Sonia."

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