The Spark of Resistance


May 1945

Vera Atkins barely recognized the woman standing alone on a platform at Euston railway station. She was clad in a bedraggled coat, unusually thick for this time of year, that hung too loosely on her frail figure. “Yvonne?”

The woman turned. At only eighteen, she had been one of the youngest hired, and still bore the look of a child, though now a starved one with dark circles around her eyes and matted blonde hair. 

Miss Atkins had the mind to hug her, but was afraid she’d either break the girl’s bones or Yvonne would collapse under the weight of her former boss’s arms. 

“I’m sorry to keep you waiting,” Miss Atkins said instead. “Was your journey all right?”

Yvonne attempted a smile. “As good as could be expected.”

Pleased as Miss Atkins was to see Yvonne, her thoughts were eclipsed by one, niggling inquiry. She voiced it after they had settled into the car, Miss Atkins sitting as straight as always, Yvonne’s head leaning against the seat. “What do you know of the other girls?”

Yvonne’s eyes flew open. “The other girls?”

“Yes. Who else was with you?”

Yvonne closed her eyes again, scrunching her face in recollection. “I saw Rose at Ravensbrück, and they said there was another British woman there, Lise, but she was in solitary confinement and I never got a good look at her face. And I encountered Corrine, Nadine, and Ambroise at Saarbrücken when I was taken there, temporarily. I remember going into a prison hut and seeing them, and thinking, ‘The whole women’s branch of F Section is here.’”

Miss Atkins mentally matched the code names with the real identities of her girls: Didi Nearne, Odette Sansom, Violette Szabo, Lilian Rolfe, and Denise Bloch. Nearly forty women had gone into the line of fire, and most of them, except Yvonne, were still missing in action. “I’ve been looking into it, but I was notified that there had been no British females held at any concentration camp.”

Yvonne turned to her. “I never told them I was a British agent. I thought I would have a lighter punishment if they believed I was French. But I knew that Corrine, Nadine, and Ambroise felt differently.” She shook her head sadly. “They were moved out of Saarbrücken the night before I was.”

“And what do you think became of them?”

“I don’t know,” was Yvonne’s terse reply. “I’d heard they were brought to Ravensbrück, same as me, but I never saw them again.” 

They arrived at Yvonne’s father’s house. Miss Atkins reached out, as though to touch her former employee’s tangled curls, but thought better of it. She folded her hands across her lap. “Don’t worry,” she told Yvonne as the driver helped her out of the car. “I will find them.”

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