Sunday, November 3, 2013

Christine Granville ... "nothing remotely civil"

As a follow-up to my earlier posts on little-known women who have won the George Medal, I have just read the story of another more famous recipient of this award, Christine Granville, born Krystyna Skarbek, the subject of the recent book by Clare Mulley entitled The Spy Who Loved

I was astonished to learn that Christine had originally been recommended for the George Cross but was "downgraded" to a George Medal and that even that didn't come easily. I quote the following passage from Clare Mulley's book which demonstrates the attitudes Christine was up against in spite of her incredible bravery that was equal to that of any man:

"Christine's courage and achievements throughout her service were admired by everyone who knew her. In December 1944, General Stawell had recommended her for the George Cross, the civil equivalent to the Victoria Cross, for her 'nerve, coolness and devotion to duty, and high courage'. But Christine was not impressed. The only medal that she would be proud to wear she told Francis [Cammaerts] would be a military medal. It was 'typical' of her, he said, that this was the one honour she could not hope to get.'  Women were ineligible for British military honours, a situation that caused another female agent, Pearl Witherington, to protest that 'there was nothing remotely civil' about what they had done. For reasons not recorded, General Alexander, the Supreme Allied Commander of the Mediterranean Theatre, then downgraded Stawell's recommendation for Christine to an OBE. This was subsequently raised to a George Medal by the War Office to 'make it obvious that she had been decorated for gallantry, as her courage was outstanding'."

The Spy who Loved

My own review of the book can be read on my other blog Regina the Bookspinner here.

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