Prince Charles unveils memorial to wartime women agents

Prince Charles unveiled the memorial at the former RAF base at Tempsford

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A memorial has been unveiled by Prince Charles to honour 75 World War Two women agents who helped resistance movements in occupied Europe.

Most of the agents flew from RAF Tempsford in Bedfordshire.

In January, Tempsford Parish Council backed a proposal by villager Tazi Husain to set up the monument.

The unveiling was attended by Baroness Crawley, who in 2011 called for the contribution of women agents to be commemorated.

The women were part of Special Operations Executive (SOE), an underground force established in the UK in 1940 by Winston Churchill to "set Europe ablaze".

It recruited men and women to launch a guerilla war against Hitler's forces.

The head of MI6, Sir John Sawers, attended the event and paid tribute to the women's "extraordinary bravery which helped change the war".

He added: "In the modern world, as well as in wartime, you need people who can operate below the radar, who can work secretly and loyally for this country."

'Forgotten women'
Tempsford Memorial Many of the 75 women listed on the monument have not previously been honoured for their service

Retired surgeon Professor Husain said: "I'd been thinking for some time it was a great shame we didn't have more in our village about what happened at the wartime airfield.

"I was particularly taken up by the fact of these women - and I thought many had been forgotten."

He said after the case of the wartime agent Eileen Nearne, who died poor and alone in Torquay in 2010, the council decided to act.

It raised more than £21,000 from donors to build the marble and granite memorial, which has been erected at the Millennium Sanctuary.

The monument includes a mosaic designed by the professor, put together "as a collective thing" by 80 villagers.

He added: "The last piece was reserved for the prince, who put it in after he unveiled the monument."

The women came from 13 different nationalities and worked as wireless operators, couriers or saboteurs.

They included Odette Sansom and Violette Szabo, both of whom had films made about their wartime experiences.

Some of them received individual memorials, such as the Indian princess Noor Inayat Khan, but many have not previously been honoured.

Of the 75 agents named by the Tempsford Memorial, 29 were arrested and 16 of them executed.

Another agent committed suicide when captured and a further two died in captivity.

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