Lilian Rolfe

Lilian Vera Rolfe, born April 26, 1914 in Paris, France - died February 5, 1945 at Ravensbrück, Germany was a heroine of World War II.

A twin to sister Helen Fedora Rolfe, she was the daughter of George Rolfe, an English chartered accountant working in Paris. Although she grew up in Paris, as a young girl, she frequently visited her grandparents who lived on Paulet Road in London, England. At the age of sixteen, her family moved to Brazil where she finished her schooling. At the onset of World War II, Lilian Rolfe worked at the British Embassy in Rio de Janeiro before going to London, England in 1943 to join the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. Because of her fluency in the French language, she was recruited into the Special Operations Executive (SOE) where she was trained as a wireless operator.

On April 5, 1944, Lilian Rolfe was dropped near the city of Orléans in occupied France where she was deployed to work with the "Historian" network run by George Wilkinson. He job was to transmit Maquis and other important radio messages to London from various locales in the area. Beyond her wireless duties, that included reporting on Nazi troop movements and organizing arms and supply drops, she actively participated in missions with members of the French Resistance against the German occupiers and was involved in a gun battle in the small town of Olivet just south of Orléans.

Following the D-Day landings, an increasingly aggressive manhunt by the Gestapo led to the arrest of her superior officer. Nonetheless, Lilian Rolfe continued to work in constant danger until her arrest at a transmitting house in Nargis on July 31, 1944. Transported to Fresnes prison in Paris, she was interrogated repeatedly and brutally tortured until August 1944 when she was shipped to Ravensbrück concentration camp. According to an admission made by a German officer after the war’s end, she was so ill that she could not walk. On February 5, 1945, 30-year-old Lilian Rolfe was executed by the Germans and her body disposed of in the crematorium.

At Ravensbrück were three other female members of the SOE who were also executed: Denise Bloch, Cecily Lefort, and Violette Szabo.

In England, Lilian Rolfe is recorded on the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey. The "Lilian Rolfe House" at the Vincennes Estate, Lambeth was dedicated to her memory. In her honor, the government of France posthumously awarded her the Croix de Guerre and in the town of Montargis in the Loiret département where she had been active during the war, a street was named using her alias: "Rue Claudie Rolfe." As one of the SOE agents who died for the liberation of France, she is listed on the "Roll of Honor" on the Valençay SOE Memorial in the town of Valençay, in the Indre departément of France.


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