A Cool and Lonely Courage: The Untold Story of Sister Spies in Occupied France

A Cool and Lonely Courage: The Untold Story of Sister Spies in Occupied France

by Susan Ottaway


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The incredible true story of British special agents Eileen and Jacqueline Nearne, sisters who risked everything to fight for freedom during the Second World War.

When elderly recluse Eileen Nearne died, few suspected that the quiet little old lady was a decorated WWII war hero. Volunteering to serve for British intelligence at age 21, Eileen was posted to Nazi-occupied France to send encoded messages of crucial importance for the Allies, until her capture by the Gestapo.

Eileen was not the only agent in her family—her sister Jacqueline was a courier for the French resistance. While Jacqueline narrowly avoided arrest, Eileen was tortured by the Nazis, then sent to the infamous Ravensbrück women's concentration camp. Astonishingly, this resourceful young woman eventually escaped her captors and found her way to the advancing American army.

In this amazing true story of triumph and tragedy, Susan Ottaway unveils the secret lives of two sisters who sacrificed themselves to defend their country.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316326988
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 09/30/2014
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 805,934
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Susan Ottaway is the author of several books, including Violette Szabo: The Life That I Have, a biography of SOE agent Violette Szabo for which she personally interviewed Eileen Nearne. She has appeared on BBC television to be interviewed about her work, and she took part in the four-part television series for the Discovery History Channel entitled George Cross Heroes.

Table of Contents

Prologue 3

1 Exile 9

2 Secrets and Lies 25

3 A Shaky Start 42

4 Escape 56

5 Broken Promises 68

6 Betrayal 77

7 Buckmaster Passes the Buck 85

8 Coming Home 98

9 Monumental Errors 105

10 An Uncomfortable Journey 114

11 The Deadly Discovery 121

12 A Bad Decision 132

13 A Brilliant Actress 144

14 Torture 151

15 Didi Vanishes 162

16 The End of the Line 175

17 Lost Opportunity 188

18 The Getaway 201

19 A Narrow Escape 211

20 Allies or Enemies? 225

21 Thoughtless Demands 236

22 Adventures, Problems and Losses 252

23 The Ultimate Secret Agent 272

Epilogue 294

Acknowledgments 299

Notes 303

Bibliography 313

Index 315

What People are Saying About This

author of The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville - Clare Mulley

This is a book with great depth, not only a deeply felt account of two remarkable sisters, whose courage and contribution continue to inspire, but also an honest critique of the all too fallible system and people behind the agents. Fascinating, appalling, and inspiring.

author of Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival and The Feud: The Hatfields and McCoys—The True - Dean King

A powerful story. A Cool and Lonely Courage reminds us of the staggering courage displayed by men and women clandestinely deployed in France during World War II in the fight to save freedom and the Western world. The Nearne sisters, SOE agents born in England and raised in France, risked all to serve the Resistance, played vital roles in foiling the Nazis, and deserve a special place in our hearts and lore.

author of A Dawn Like Thunder: The True Story of Torpedo Squadron Eight and To Kingdom Come: An Epic Saga of Sur - Robert J. Mrazek

With vivid color and remarkable detail, Susan Ottaway has written a gripping and magnificent tribute to two courageous young women who braved torture and death from the Gestapo to carry out important Allied undercover work in German-occupied France.

author of The Admirals and American Spring - Walter R. Borneman

Susan Ottaway skillfully unravels a gripping and suspenseful tale of one family's personal sacrifice, courage, and commitment to serve their country and the cost to them to do so.

author of The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dacha - Alex Kershaw

A wonderfully told story of two extraordinary sisters, operating behind enemy lines, whose cool and lonely courage helped defeat Hitler.

bestselling author of We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Women Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese - Elizabeth M. Norman

Seven decades later, remarkable tales from World War II continue to be discovered. The story of the Nearne sisters is certainly one of them. Their extraordinary experiences from young schoolgirls to British Intelligence agents working behind enemy lines as couriers, saboteurs, and wireless operators are remarkable, and when you read about one sister who was captured, tortured, and escaped from the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, you wonder why it has taken so long for us to learn about these women. Thanks to Susan Ottaway, they are back in our lives. And thank you to Jacqueline and Didi Nearne. We should all possess your courage, tenacity, and loyalty.

author of Dog Company: The Rangers Who Accomplished D-Day's Toughest Mission and Led the Way across Europe and First - Patrick K. O'Donnell

I love untold stories and this is a compelling one! Susan Ottaway skillfully transports the reader into the shadowy cloak and dagger world of occupied France and allows them to experience the daring exploits of a sisterhood of spies. I highly recommend A Cool and Lonely Courage.

co-author of The Last Lion: Defender of the Realm - Paul Reid

An incredible story of sisterly love and courage in the face of absolute evil.

author of The Wolves at the Door: The True Story of America's Greatest Female Spy - Judith Pearson

At a time in history when women weren't given credit for being capable of anything combat-related, the work of Eileen and Jacqueline Nearne exemplifies women's crucial role in WW II. Susan Ottaway's tribute to them, and others like them, not only celebrates their courage; it provides a vital blueprint of encouragement to today's women and girls. This is an amazing read!

Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer and The Good - Kai Bird

Susan Ottaway has written a true-life spy thriller, an extraordinary story of danger and survival set in war-time occupied France. Ottaway's colorful tale of spycraft is reminiscent of Ben Macintyre's Operation Mincemeat—or Eric Ambler's classic spy novels. But drawing on newly declassified records from the British archives, Ottaway gracefully documents the uncommon courage of the Nearne sisters and unearths an important and untold chapter in the history of British espionage operations in World War II.

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A Cool and Lonely Courage: The Untold Story of Sister Spies in Occupied France 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A part of history that is not well known and should be . Wonderful story of unbelievable bravery and loyalty.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Praise for Sisters, Secrets and Sacrifice. - I just have to say how pleased I am with Susan's biography on my aunts' lives. It makes very enjoyable reading. Susan has written this book from the bottom of her heart, with real feeling for my aunts, who dedicated their lives unselfishly to the Libération. It is a touching tribute to their incredible courage. They were so patriotic that they didn't even think of the danger they were facing, and were prepared to risk their lives. They were an example for us all to lead honest and trustworthy lives. My aunts didn't want any glory whilst alive and Always kept such a low profile, so deserve to be honoured now for their sacrifice, through Susan's book. Having actually spoken to Didi whilst alive, and done so much research, makes the book all the more interesting. You become totally absorbed by the story, that it is difficult to put down. I thoroughly recommend this outstanding biography, and would like to thank Susan on my aunts' behalf.