GWR train named after decorated WWII spy Odette Hallowes

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Media caption,

Odette Hallowes was interviewed in 1992 about her time in captivity

World War Two's most highly decorated female spy has had a train named after her by Great Western Railway.

Odette Hallowes, from Red Ball in Somerset, was awarded the George Cross, an MBE and the French Légion d'honneur for her role as a Special Operations Executive and spy in occupied France.

She was interrogated at least 14 times by the Gestapo, who pulled all her toenails out.

"We are so moved by this honour," said her granddaughter Sophie Parker.

"It's a wonderful way to recognise what Odette did, but also a way to make sure that people like her are not forgotten."

Image source, Simon Galloway
Image caption,
The ceremony in Odette's honour was held at Paddington Station in London on Friday morning

Mrs Hallowes, who has also been known under surnames Sansom and Churchill among others, was recruited by the British Government in 1942 to work in France, but was betrayed in 1943 and arrested.

She was brutally tortured for the next two years, also enduring solitary confinement for over three months in Ravensbrück concentration camp, but she refused to betray her fellow agents.

The Nazis didn't execute her as she lied to them that she was related to Winston Churchill, falsely claiming her fellow agent Peter Churchill was her husband.

"She maintained her dignity and value, and never gave up hope of seeing her children again," said Ms Parker.

Image source, Simon Galloway
Image caption,
The Princess Royal paid tribute to Odette's inspirational bravery as she spoke at the naming ceremony

The Princess Royal attended the naming ceremony of the intercity express train at Paddington Station on Friday morning.

"We have heard details of Odette's remarkable story. Her bravery was inspirational and her survival extraordinary," said Princess Anne.

"She would never accept any recognition for her special contribution without reminding us that she was only a face of a wider body of operations, made possible through a network of dedicated teams behind the scenes, as well as those like her who were prepared to infiltrate enemy lines.

"It gives me very great pleasure to name this train in honour of Odette. It serving as a tribute to her and her friends and colleagues of the Special Operations Executive."

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