50th Anniversary of 'Carve her name with pride'


Published: 17th December 2008

The classic British war film Carve Her Name With Pride was based on the true story of Violette Szabó GC, the 23 year old French speaking single mother who volunteered during WW2 to be an agent for the top secret Special Operations Executive (SOE). Shortly after parachuting into German occupied France on her second mission, Violette was captured, tortured, and eventually executed at Ravensbrück women's concentration camp.

Commemorative screenings and events during November 2008 celebrated the 50th anniversary of the film, with a day long programme at London's BFI Southbank followed by a special weekend at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. Both gave the film audiences the opportunity to also hear talks on Violette Szabó and SOE by specially invited speakers.

The British Film Institute's Study Day started with talks by Dr Juliette Pattinson and Sarah Helm who offered fresh perspectives on the Special Operations Executive by examining the historical and cultural context of this iconic story.

In the afternoon Virginia McKenna OBE was reunited with the film's veteran director Lewis Gilbert and supporting actress Billie Whitelaw CBE. They were joined by Violette Szabo's daughter Tania for a matinee screening, and then all took part in an Q&A discussion session which delighted the audience.

This being a British Film Institute event meant that its natural starting point was the on-screen depiction of Violette Szabó's story 50 years ago, and so the morning talks looked at how this now compares with the currently known ‘facts' about her life and also how other women agents have been portrayed in more recent films and television programmes.

The presentations, and the lively discussion which followed, also provided a perfect opportunity to cover wider ranging SOE topics, and these morning sessions were specially recorded. The audio is now available via this web site, and by providing such a unique perspective on the bigger SOE picture, "The BFI Sessions" are likely to become essential listening for everyone with a keen interest in the Special Operations Executive.

The Southbank day was organised by David Somerset, the BFI's Education curator, Adult Community. David and his team worked closely with WW2 oral historian Martyn Cox (Our Secret War) who had instigated the 50th anniversary commemorations in both London and Leeds.

Click HERE for the Audio introduction

For assistance with playback click HERE or on "Help" in the menu at the top of any page.

Photos and logo © ITV Global Entertainment Ltd  /  BFI / Clive Bassett / Tania Szabó


Violette Szabó and the Special Operations Executive