Female spy's war medals sell at auction for over $500,000

Violette Szabo's daughter Tania holds her mother's George Cross medal. AFP
French-born British World War II agent Violette Szabo in 1944. AFP

LONDON (AFP) - A British bravery medal awarded to a female spy who parachuted into France during World War II and was executed by the Nazis was sold with her other awards on Wednesday for £260,000 (S$555,000).

Violette Szabo, the daughter of a British father and French mother, was one of only four women to receive the George Cross, the second-highest British honour.

She was twice sent behind enemy lines with Britain's secret Special Operations Executive, firstly to confirm reports that one of its sabotage operations had been compromised and then to arrange a similar set-up elsewhere.

Slight, pretty, and with a determination and fearlessness that struck all who met her, Szabo was arrested a few days into the second mission in June 1944, but not before engaging in a lengthy gun battle with German soldiers.

She was interrogated and tortured by the Gestapo before being sent to a succession of German camps.

She was killed at Ravensbruck, north of Berlin, in early 1945 at the age of 23.

Before joining the SOE, Szabo had married a member of the Free French Forces and had a daughter, Tania.

Her husband, Etienne, was killed fighting in north Africa in 1942.

Their daughter received the George Cross on Szabo's behalf from King George VI in 1947.

Then aged four, she wore a dress that her mother had bought in Paris between her two missions.

With no children of her own to pass it on to and concerned about her own financial future, Tania Szabo sold it as part of a collection of her mother's medals and other personal papers at auction in London.

They were bought on behalf of multi-millionaire businessman Michael Ashcroft and will go on display as part of his collection of medals at the Imperial War Museum in London.

"I'm very happy with the result. They're going into a safe place where people will be able to view them - many thousands of people - so a good result," Tania Szabo said.

Michael Naxton, curator of the Ashcroft collection, said: "It's probably one of the most iconic bravery medals of the 20th century".

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