Princess Anne praises Nightingale war effort


The Princess Royal paid tribute to the bravery of three female wartime secret agents with a Nightingale House connection when she visited the Clapham care home on Wednesday.

French agents Andree Borrel, Madeleine Damerment and Denise Bloch — a Parisian Jew — “resisted German occupation from the very beginning”, the princess said at the unveiling of a plaque honouring the trio’s contribution to Britain’s Special Operations Executive. Nightingale was the base for the SOE, which organised and supplied underground resistance movements in occupied countries.

“After they escaped to Britain they arrived here at 101 Nightingale Lane. They were recruited by the French section and returned well aware of the risks and the sobering estimate that only one out of every two agents would return. I’m very honoured to be asked to unveil this plaque.”

Ms Bloch joined the SOE in 1942, having fled France with her fiancé, another member of the resistance, after her family was captured by the Gestapo. She was trained at Nightingale as a radio operator, but just three months after being flown back to France, the 29-year-old and the rest of her unit were betrayed and captured. Ms Bloch was interrogated and executed at Ravensbrück concentration camp in early 1945.

Local councillors and Nightingale residents also heard historian Paul McCue describe Ms Bloch as a woman with “courage, determination and a thorough understanding and hatred of the enemy”.

Hans Fleck, an 86-year-old resident who came to Britain on the Kindertransport three months before the war, said it was an honour to meet the princess. “Having never been near any royal, it was very interesting. She talked to me as if it were over breakfast, asking a bit about me, being completely friendly.”

Nightingale Hammerson chairman Harvey Rosenblatt was delighted by the royal visit and the recognition of Nightingale’s role in the war effort.

“The history of this building is extraordinary and these brave women deserve to be commemorated.
“They were re-cruited here but did not return.”

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