Krystyna Skarbek, the best British agent of WWII

Krystyna Skarbek, a woman of remarkable courage and determination, played a pivotal role during WWII as a Polish patriot and a crucial asset to Winston Churchill’s intelligence operations.

On 16 Septembre 2020, at the initiative of British author and historian Clare Mulley, English Heritage unveiled a commemorative „blue plaque” dedicated to Krystyna Skarbek. The plaque is located on the facade of the I Lexham Gardens Hotel in Kensington (formerly the Shelbourne Hotel). 

The plaque reads the following: “Christine Granville, born Krystyna Skarbek, was one of the most distinguished secret agents of World War II, undertaking numerous successful missions and employing her linguistic skills, powers of persuasion, and sheer courage to save countless lives. She was also Britain’s longest-serving female agent.

Born into a distinguished Polish family in Warsaw, Skarbek, also known by her British codename „Christine Granville” quickly embarked on a journey that would place her at the heart of Allied intelligence efforts.

Skarbek’s involvement in espionage began when she volunteered for Poland’s Secret Intelligence Service, where her linguistic skills and ingenuity proved invaluable. Operating undercover in Hungary and then France, she successfully facilitated the escape of numerous Polish refugees and prisoners of war.

However, it was in her alliance with the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) that Skarbek truly made her mark. Recognising her expertise and audacity, Winston Churchill recruited her. He knew she was bout to become a vital asset in Britain’s war effort against Nazi Germany.

Skarbek’s many perilous assignments, including smuggling vital intelligence, sabotaging enemy operations, and coordinating resistance efforts. Her ability to blend in seamlessly with local populations, coupled with her quick thinking under pressure, made her a formidable operative.

One of Skarbek’s most notable achievements was her role in the liberation of French Resistance leader, Francis Cammaerts, from Gestapo custody in 1944. Risking capture and torture, she executed a daring plan that successfully secured his escape.

Skarbek’s contributions did not go unnoticed. Her bravery was recognised with numerous awards and commendations, including the George Medal from Britain and the Cross of Valour from Poland.

Author: Sébastien Meuwissen

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