Vera H Atkins, C.B.E.
Vera Atkins, a formidable intelligence officer in Britain's Second
World War secret service who hunted the Nazi killers of more than
100 special forces agents, died yesterday aged 92.
As the WAAF officer who was personal assistant to Col Maurice
Buckmaster, the head of the Special Operations Executive "F"
section, she was the power in the top-secret organisation that ran
covert operations and aided the Resistance in German-occupied
France. Miss Atkins died yesterday morning at a nursing home at
Hastings, Sussex, after a short illness.
Col Buckmaster and Miss Atkins are believed to have inspired the "M"
and "Miss Moneypenny" characters in Ian Fleming's 007 books. Her
influence, however, went beyond that of secretary in the special
forces unit, whose existence only emerged after the war. She
dispatched about 400 agents - nicknamed "Buckmasters" - to France,
briefing them on how to survive. She stood on the runway to count
them out as they took off to be parachuted into enemy territory at night.
More than 100 agents went missing. Some were killed, but many more
were captured and tortured by the Gestapo, or sent to concentration
camps. After the war, Miss Atkins determined to discover their fate,
acting unofficially as the Government had disbanded the SOE.
She pored over Nazi records and questioned senior concentration camp
commandants. Her archive helped war crimes prosecutions and
contributed to the SOE's roll of honour. At the age of 87, Miss
Atkins was honoured by François Mitterrand, the then president of
France, who appointed her a Commandant of the Légion d'honneur,
The order's highest rank.
Zenna Atkins, her niece, said yesterday: "She had an incredible
sense of justice and would not be diverted from doing what was
right. She has been an inspiration to an enormous number of people."
A memorial service is expected to be held in London in September.
ISSUE 1857Sunday 25 June 2000 Electronic Telegraph
By Macer Hall and Michael Burke
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