10 Fearless Female War Heroes You Didn't Learn About in History Class

Krystyna Skarbek. Pressmania.pl

Krystyna Skarbek/Christine Granville

Krystyna Skarbek was born in Poland and managed to get to England after her country fell to the Germans in World War II. She wasted no time in volunteering to be a spy, and even offered up a plan for her first mission. She wanted to go to Hungary where she would print propaganda flyers, and then ski through the mountains into Poland to distribute the flyers. Once in Poland she planned to run intelligence missions and aid the Polish resistance in getting out their homeland.

The British Special Operations Executive approved the plan and she left for Budapest in December 1939. Her plan was successful and she managed to get into Warsaw. She followed through with her plan of aiding the resistance and conducting intelligence missions. She became so successful that there were large posters in every train station in Poland offering a reward for her capture. As her work with the SOE continued, she changed her name to Christine Granville to protect her identity. In 1941 she was captured by the Gestapo, but she convinced them she had tuberculosis by biting her tongue hard enough that she coughed up blood.

She was released and made it to SOE headquarters in Cairo, Egypt. For a period of time, she was suspected of being a double agent and was removed from duty until she was cleared by an investigation. The SOE decided that it was too dangerous to send her back to Poland or Hungary, despite her willingness to return.

In 1944 she parachuted into France to assist the French resistance.  She worked with linking Italian partisans and the French resistance for joint missions. At one point, she was stopped at the Italian border by German guards. When they told her to put her hands up she did so and revealed a grenade under each arm, with the pins withdrawn. She threatened to drop the grenades, and the German guards fled. Another one of her famous exploits was to convince a Gestapo liaison to release three British prisoners who were set to be executed in exchange for 2 million francs.