Three Female Heroes of The Second World War

Happy International Women’s Day, Commanders!

You’re probably already diving headfirst into the rewarding International Women’s Day missions and are eagerly anticipating a special stream between 14:00 and 18:00 CET (UTC+1) this afternoon, complete with stunning female skins and a 2D style available via Twitch Drops!

But before you roll out, we’d like to take this opportunity to mark this year’s International Women’s Day. From the thousands of women who kept the home fires burning, to the women who took over previously male-occupied jobs, and to those right on the front line, this a tribute to all the fierce, courageous, and remarkable women who played their part during the Second World War.

Here are a few stories of their inspiring stoicism, daring exploits, and indisputable heroism.

Krystyna Skarbek (Christine Granville), Spy, Occupied Europe

Daughter of a Polish count and granddaughter of a wealthy Jewish banker, Krystyna Skarbek played a vital role in organizing resistance groups and smuggling pilots out of occupied Europe.

In Ethiopia, when war broke out, Krystyna Skarbek quickly signed up with Section D, a new section of the British Secret Intelligence Service (now MI6). Skarbek was smuggled into Poland through Hungary with orders to facilitate communications between resistance groups and London. She gathered intelligence on river and train traffic, and smuggled POWs and pilots out of the country and back to Britain where they could rejoin their units.

In 1941, her luck ran out and she was arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo. She was released after faking a case of tuberculosis by biting her tongue until it bled. After taking on a new identity as Christine Granville, she trained as a paratrooper and radio operator. Following the successful D-Day landings, she was dropped into France, but the area she landed in was crawling with enemy forces, so she fled toward the Italian border. She hiked 70 miles to safety, meeting up with partisans to arrange prisoner releases and stall German advances by blowing up roads and bridges along the way.

Section D was established to thwart Germany’s war efforts and carry out sabotage and clandestine operations throughout occupied Europe. Christine Granville’s escapades cemented her reputation as a legendary spy.

Gwen Thomas, Factory Worker, Britain

Gwen Thomas was a munitions worker in Liverpool during the Second World War. Given almost no training, she was put into 'small shops' where they filled shells and land mines with explosives, including TNT.

Nicknamed 'Canary Girls', munitions workers often handled toxic chemicals, such as sulphur, which turned their skin and hair yellow from constant contact and exposure. Gwen Thomas was not alone. She worked through the terrible conditions and carried out difficult duties such as filling shells with hot TNT. One day, she slipped on the floor near a big container and got covered head to toe in TNT. Although her face was red and scarred, she simply rested on a bed for an hour and then went straight back to work.

The nearly one million female munitions workers in Britain worked in spite of the serious risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals or dangerous machinery. They often clocked seven days a week, risking life and limb to supply weapons and ammunition to the front lines.

Reba Whittle, POW Nurse, Germany

Lt. Reba Whittle was an American flight nurse with the 813th Medical Air Evacuation Squadron. She became the first female military POW in the western theater, and the only female American to be imprisoned as a POW in Europe.

In September 1944, Whittle was aboard a flight to pick up Allied casualties in France when the plane veered off course and was shot down over Aachen, Germany. The few survivors were captured and escorted to a POW camp. The Germans were unsure what to do with Whittle, but rather than use her for forced labor like many female Russian soldiers on the Eastern Front, they rounded her up alongside her male captives. She treated the wounded in the camp, but by that time had sustained several physical and psychological injuries. Thankfully, the German Red Cross arranged for her release in January, 1945 and she was promoted to lieutenant and awarded both the Air Medal and a Purple Heart.

The Second World War saw the advent of flight nursing. Nurses were trained to deal with medical emergencies and studied field survival, map-reading, and camouflage, as well as crash procedures and how to parachute. Many were stationed abroad in mainland Europe or in the Pacific and flew dangerous routes over combat zones and occupied territory.

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