The National Archives HS 9/289

The total number of female personnel supporting SOE in the Far East by July 1945 was 723. This page is dedicated to them, for without them, Force 136 would not have been able to do what it did. A great deal of their work was concerned with Burma, as that was where SOE’s largest operational commitment to the war against Japan was focused.

Of the 723 women employed by SOE, 449 belonged to the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, or FANY; 274 remained civilians.

At 368, just over half of the 723 were employed by the Signals establishment. During 1945, they were responsible for 1,422,356 cipher groups going into and coming out of the field from approximately 183 operational W/T sets across Southeast Asia. There were over 50 W/T sets in Burma alone. Women working as cipherettes often worked 12 hour shifts, ensuring that messages to and from operations were sent and received 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The remaining 355 women were distributed on clerical and secretarial roles.

Maiden name will be provided where it is given, and ‘(Mrs)’ inserted after surname if already married but no maiden name given. Where there is no ‘nee’ or ‘(Mrs)’, assume it is Miss.


Mystery – who is this?

In the wrong file! Which of the following ladies is she?


Adam (Mrs), I, B/B392


Ashley, Winifred: born 9 April 1921 in Cardiff, Ashley was a FANY employed from February 1943 as a W/T operator. She left for India in October 1944 and was signed off from SOE in January 1946 after returning to the UK. Prior to SOE, Winifred was employed as a dressmaker and cashier. Her brother was Sapper John Thomas Ashley, who was indicated on her MI5 trace as ‘missing Singapore’. It appears that this was correct as he is listed HERE.

HS 9/57/3


Banks, Elizabeth Amy: born 6 April 1921 in Newcastle-on-Tyne, Elizabeth was employed as a clerk with SOE from 4 June 1945. Her prior employment was with the National Fire Service, where she was ‘trustworthy and conscientious.’ She was registered as a WAAF.

She left for India on 10 July, and worked in Colombo as a clerk. She left for the UK on 17 November, arriving on 12 December 1945.

HS 9/84/6


Barker, Dorothy Louise: born 14 November 1920 in Harrogate, Yorkshire, Dorothy was employed by SOE from 19 January 1945 as a W/T operator at STS 54b. She left the UK for India on 14 July 1945, returning around the 5 January 1946. Before joining SOE she was a Clerk at the Ministry of Labour.

HS 9/89/8


Baroni, Muriel Theresa Anne, B/B395: Anglo-Burmese, born 23 July 1918 in Yamethin, Burma. Muriel was employed as a typist in India from 31 August 1943. Prior to this, she had worked for four years as a teacher in Rangoon after attending Rangoon university. She worked in Delhi, Kandy, and Calcutta, as well as in Rangoon from 12 October 1945 until release from service on 15 December 1945.

HS 9/93/7


Bartlet, Pauline Cecile, B/B734: born 9 August 1917 in Ceylon, Pauline left Ceylon in May 1928 to go to boarding school in Eastbourne. In 1935, her schooling complete, she returned to Ceylon. From October 1940 until December 1943 she worked as a Cipherette in HM Naval Office in Ceylon. She then worked for the Ministry of Economic Warfare in the same role at Meerut in India.

In March 1944 she went to England ‘for personal reasons’, and while in London she joined SOE. What she did between March 1944 and 29 June 1945 when she left for India remains a mystery. Back out east, she was posted to Trincomalee as a Cipherette. The second half of September was spent ill with fever, finally signing off from SOE on 29 November 1945 at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo.

HS 9/97/8


Bean (Mrs) R.M., B/B161: No personnel file exists for Mrs Bean.


Beck, Muriel Ellen, B/B766: born 3 November 1911 in Sydenham, London, Muriel was employed as a junior secretary in Meerut from 11 December 1943. She was recruited in India, where her father, Major Frederick George Beck, was a Garrison Engineer in Abbottabad. She remained with SOE until 28 February 1946.

Muriel worked from employment until 24 September 1945 with just one week off in June 1944. She ended up as ‘Secretary to D.A.D.M.S.’ (Deputy Assistant Director, Medical services).

HS 9/112/1


Benjamin, S.W.A.C., B/B379: There is no personnel file for Miss Benjamin.


Bentley, Mary Ann, B/B112: Mary was one of the first women to be employed by SOE in the Far East, commencing as a secretary for the Oriental Mission in Singapore from 23 June 1941. She evidently escaped Singapore and was transferred to the India Mission on 6 April 1942 when her codename changed from 0.157 to B/B112.

There is no date of birth recorded for Mary, but she was 45 in 1941, and her nationality is noted as Australian. Prior to SOE, Mary had worked for sixteen years as a private secretry to the manager of Strong & Co. in Kobe, Japan. She was employed by SOE in Delhi and then Poona at EWS(I) from November 1944 as a cashier and book-keeper, and paid Rs.700 p/m. She reported to Australia in May 1946.

HS 9/130/1


Bett, Pleasance Margaret Archdale, B/B925: born 11 June 1915 in Thornham, Norfolk, Pleasance was a VAD before joining SOE in November 1942. She was taken on as a FANY working as a coder at STS 52. Pleasance left for India on 26 March 1944, returning to the UK in late 1945 where she was signed off in December. On her MI5 trace, it shows her brother, Henry Bourdillon Bett, was a POW at Oflag VI B.

In 1984, Pleasance published her autobiography, Mouse to a Tiger. She describes why she left the VADs for SOE, and how she felt that her work at STS 53 at Grendon Underwood ‘was the real thing’ and she felt like she was doing her bit for the war. Going out to India in 1944, the conditions on the boat are described in detail, as are her travels in India. She spent all her time in India with Captain Elizabeth Broad, taking every opportunity to explore and see the world ‘at HM Government’s expense.’

In India and Ceylon, Pleasance was responsible mostly for setting up camps for the FANYs who followed her. Describing her W/T work: ‘[t]he coding was dull as the sense of urgency was gone’ compared to working for F Section.

Obituary

Ancestry

HS 9/141/7


Ruby Beyts

Beyts, Ruby (nee Scott-Elliot), B/B921: born 23 July 1911 in Dumfries, Scotland, Ruby was ‘put through the cards’ in November 1943. Her redacted file shows that her aunt and cousin were being watched by the censor, but ‘why’ is covered up. Employed as a secretary from 31 January 1944, Ruby left for India on 26 March 1944. In India, she was employed in Meerut as a Cipherette; her record shows she resigned on 6 March 1945. Her husband (married 1940) was Brigadier Geoffrey Herbert Bruno Beyts, 3/6 Rajputana Rifles. Beyts was also in Force 136, as Chief of Staff for the commander, Colin Mackenzie.

Her father was Lt.Col. Charles Reginald Scott-Elliot (also Indian Army), and her grandfather was General Charles Scott-Elliot.

HS 9/143/5


Bigg-Wither, Pamela Mary: born 29 August 1921 in Naini Tal, India, Pamela was recruited in the UK on 19 June 1944. She left for India on 18 July 1944, to be employed as a secretary. She worked in Calcutta in the War Office from August 1944. Her references describe her as very discreet for her age, based on her employment in the War Office Room 055 from August 1940 until joining SOE. In November 1945, she signed a form breaking her contract and repatriation to the UK in order to go and work in Singapore for CICB.

HS 9/1614/7


Birtwistle, Pamela Helen: born 25 August 1922 in Longho near Blackburn, Pamela was an agricultural worker before joining SOE. Her MI5 trace came back with a possible link to a known Fascist, but the details have been redacted. Once this was ruled out, she was a coder at STS 53C from 4 August 1944 before leaving for India in September. She was signed off after her return to the UK on 17 April 1946.

HS 9/157/2 Note incorrect spelling of ‘Birtwistle’ as ‘Birtwhistle’ on the archive’s catalogue.


Blane, Gwendoline Grace Olive, B/B839: born 3 February 1908 in Sydenham, London, Gwendoline was working for the National Provincial Bank when she was first checked out by SOE in October 1943. She had been educated at the relatively new Providence High School in Wood Green between 1918-1923.

It appears that unless she could get an overseas posting, Gwendoline did not want to leave the bank. Initially earmarked for a November convoy to the Middle East, she started as a secretary on 6 March 1944. On 5 May she left for India and ended up working as a senior secretary in Colombo from 31 July 1944. She returned to the UK in October 1945.

HS 9/163/2


Bolland, Eileen Alice Mary (nee Witchell), B/B790: born 10 December 1919 in Hong Kong, Eileen was employed as a secretary for duties in Colombo in March 1944. A note indicates she might have left SOE in October 1944. Her father, George Bernard Witchell was a Marine Superintendent in Hong Kong.

HS 9/174/5


Bonavia, Olga Camilla Gertrude: born 23 September 1924 in Blackheath, London, Olga had a Russian mother and her father was a Major in the RAMC. She was scouted by SOE on 3 August 1943, and employed a week later as a secretary in India.

HS 9/176/5


Bonavia, Tatiana Mary Gertrude: born 11 July 1926 in the Punjab, Tatiana was the sister of Olga (above). Tatiana was employed from 24 July 1943 as a secretary, just after her 17th birthday.

HS 9/176/6


Corporal Boughton, Joyce Muriel: born 20 November 1924 in London, Joyce was employed as a FANY and worked in Italy. Her PF does not mention going to work for the India Mission as a coder, but her name is on a list of women in a separate file who were due to go. She is recorded as ‘signed off’ in July 1945, which may indicate no service in the Far East.

HS 9/189/6


Boyd-Walker (Mrs), G., B/B156: Mrs Boyd-Walker has no surviving Personnel File.


Box, Irene Mabel: born 18 May 1922 in Cardiff, Irene was ‘put through the cards’ for possible employment as a switchboard operator in September 1944. Her trace being clear, she joined the FANY and worked briefly at London HQ on the switchboard before posting to India on 10 December 1944. Prior to SOE she had worked for the Ministry of Labour and National Service in Cardiff since October 1939. She signed off from SOE on 5 April 1946 after her return to the UK.

HS 9/194/7


Brennand, Angela Katherine: born 10 November 1924 in Thirsk, Yorkshire, and employed as a coder / W/T operator at STS 54 from March 1943. In August 1944, she was posted to Bari, and later put on a list for the Far East. It is unclear whether Angela went to India based on her PF, but it seems unlikley as she was signed off on 23 July 1945.

HS 9//205/4


Brims (Mrs), Sheila Millicent, B/B116: born 10 October 1911 in Calcutta, Sheila was employed by SOE from May 1942 as a secretary. She left SOE on 11 January 1945 due to ‘ill health’.

HS 9/210/4


Captain Broad, Elizabeth Mary, (B/B923): born 14 April 1916 in London, Elizabeth was the daughter of Lt.Gen. Charles Noel Frank Broad. She was employed by SOE in London from January 1944, leaving for India in March. She returned to the UK and was signed off on 6 Decembr 1945.

Before SOE, Elizabeth was a FANY and had been employed as PA to the Commander, Eastern Army (who was her father from 1940-42), and employed in the War Office.

Known to her friends as ‘Betty’, she spent much of her time in India with Pleasance Bett, who described her thus:

‘Our Captain, Betty, was slightly older than all of us and was a handsome girl with a fine head of hair. Her father had been a general in pre-war India and she had acted as his secretary, so she had seen much of India from the red carpet angle and spoke Urdu fluently.’ Pleasance Bett, Mouse to a Tiger, p.55.

HS 9/212/5


Beryl Bruce

Bruce, Beryl Evelyn, B/B846: born 31 July 1913 in Kensington, London, Beryl was a shorthand typist with Twickenham Borough Council when SOE looked into employing her in February 1944. Schooled at Twickenham County School for Girls 1924-29, and the famous Pitman’s College 1930-31, her father is recorded as a ‘Taxicab Proprietor’.

Beryl was taken on in April, she left for India on 5 May 1944. She had explicitly said she would not leave her job unless it was to be posted overseas. She returned from India on 30 November, having served as ‘Int. Secretary to G.III’ in Colombo.

HS 9/224/2


Burchett (Mrs), Helen Maude Verena, B/B785: born in Ceylon in 1910, Helen was employed as a secretary in Colombo from 8 February 1944. Her employment card shows that she was on ‘Bungalow Supervision’ from 23 June 1945, and then on the General Registry from a date in 1945 which is hole-punched into obscurity. She left Ceylon on 31 August 1945, probably to be reunited with her husband, Captain James Howard Burchett, who is recorded as as POW on her employment card. Her UK home was in Mon’s Risborough, Buckinghamshire. Her Colombo address now appears to be a German NGO headquarters.

Note the incorrect DOB on the employment card:

Employment Card

HS 9/236/2


Burn, Mary Angela (nee Reaks), B/B764: born 30 September 1897 in Darjeeling, Mary was employed as a secretary in Meerut from 9 December 1943. She signed off from mSOE on 3 January 1946. Her employment card shows that she was working on Ops in Kandy from 23 December 1944, and in Intelligence from 7 April 1945. She fractured her ankle in October 1945 while on annual leave.

Mary’s MI5 trace shows that she was married to Lieutenant ‘Donald McKay Burn (deceased)’, but he is not listed on the CWGC website for either war.

HS 9/238/8


Burns, Marion Gertrude, B/B746: born 30 September 1921 in Nainital, India, Marion was employed by SOE in Meerut from 12 October 1943, and signed off on 20 February 1946. At first she was a shipping clerk, looking after the movement of stores by sea and air. From September 1944, she was employed at the Special Forces Development Centre in Poona, and then she was moved to Kandy where she worked from 26 April 1945. By December 1945, she was back where she started in Meerut, looking after Registry.

HS 9/240/7


Cardon-Noad, P.C., B/B166:


Carpenter, Gwenda Mary Lant, B/B770: born 3 June 1924 in Calcutta, Gwenda was recruited in Calcutta on 8 November 1943 to be a cipherette. By 1945, she was working in Q Ops Packing at Rs300 p/m. In August 1944 she was sick with Dengue Fever. Between joining SOE and her release in January 1946, Gwenda enjoyed a total of five weeks leave.

Her father worked for Bird & Company, founded in 1864 by Captain Samuel Bird to supply labour for ‘infrastructure projects’ in India.

HS 9/267/3


Carter (Mrs), Dorothy Joyce., B/B894: born 22 April 1918 in Auckland, New Zealand, Dorothy joined SOE in April 1944. Recruited in India, Dorothy was a secretary in Bombay. She spoke Malay. She left for the UK on 17 June 1945.

Dorothy is recorded as a widower when she joined SOE. Her MI5 trace shows her husband was Captain Reginald Carter of the 1st Battalion the Malay Regiment.

Dorothy Grenier had sailed for Malaya from Southampton onboard the Royal Dutch Mailship C.Huygens in October 1936. At just nineteen years old, she met and fell in love with Reginald Carter, a man nine years her senior. They were married in Malaya, where Reg worked for the Kedah Rubber Company in Selangor.

While Dorothy managed to escape from Malaya to India when war came, it appears that her husband managed to leave Singapore after the surrender onboard the Ban Ho Guan, but the boat was sunk by a Japanese submarine on 28 February or 1 March 1942. Dorothy did not give up trying to find out what happened to her husband:

CARTER – “…If you will refer to your files you will note that I informed you I had reason to believe my husband left Padang bound for Java on the night of the 27th February 1942. I have since ascertained that a ship named the “BHG” left for Java that same night and was sunk by the Japanese on 1st March 1942…. Since the Japanese surrender all my attempts to trace my husband have been in vain. Although there is no positive proof that he was on the “BHG” it seems highly probable that he was…( letter 3 November 1945 from Mrs. Joyce Carter to Casualties Branch, War Office ,London)

This is somewhat verified by a direct record of ‘Reggie’ Carter reaching Padang and boarding
the ‘BHG’ from the memoirs of Donald Bruce –Smith (who had been on the “SS.
Kuala”) who was a friend and had known him in Malaya, “… Joyce and Reggie
Carter were on a rubber estate in the Krian district where I was posted on my
arrival in Malaya. Joyce was the lady’s tennis champion in Malay[a] and Reggie
became a regular army officer with the Malayan Regiment shortly before the
Japanese invasion of Malaya…Reggie Carter escaped from Singapore after the
ceasefire. We had coffee together in Padang one morning and arranged to
repeat this the following morning. However, he did not keep his appointment and
as a result of my enquiries, I found out that he had sailed in a small boat for Java
during the night. There had been no word of him since and we concluded that
he had lost his life. Joyce was always pleased to see me [this was in India in
1942]…as I was her only friend who had seen him before he set off on that fateful
journey…” (the memoirs of Donald Bruce -Smith supplied by Gerald Bruce –
Smith).
SOURCE (edited).

After she had finally ascertained that her husband was dead, Dorothy remarried on 13 July 1946 to Douglas Cecil Andrew Fraser, at St. Andrews Church, Kuala Lumpur.

Additional source

HS 9/273/5


Chambers, Aileen Geraldine Olga, (nee Allison) B/B376: born 8 October 1896 in Mullingar County West Meath, Aileen was recruited in India and was employed in Bombay from 11 June 1942 as a secretary. Her record indicates that she was in charge of transport and earned Rs700 p/m. She left SOE in May 1946.

Aileen was married to Brigadier Henry Maurice Chambers of 64 Indian Brigade, later Major General Chambers and commander of 26 Indian Infantry Division. They were divorced in 1947.

Some interesting family tree HERE. Aileen’s mother was Lady Diana Montgomerie. Aileen died in Basingstoke, Hampshire, in 1977.

HS 9/291/1


Cheminant, Dorothy Janet Le, (nee Cameron) B/B387: born 22 May 1909 in Penarth, Wales, Dorothy joined SOE in Bombay in late August or ealy September and went to work as a secretary in Karachi. Her employment card indicates that she was in Bombay, still on secretarial duties, in November 1944.

HS 9/303/8


Chew (Mrs), V.M., B/B377:


Clack, B/B842:


Clark, Sheila Murray, B/B372: born 27 February 1916 in Ceylon, Sheila was employed by SOE from May 1943. Apart from idicating she was a secretary, her file reveals she was married to Lt.Commander Hugh Murray Clark of the Royal Indian Navy.

HS 9/320/8


Clarke (Mrs), Aileen Florence, B/B789: born 16 October 1909 in Calcutta, Aileen worked for SOE from March 1944 as an ‘”I” Secretary’ (presumably intelligence) and then as ‘Q Props’ (stores) from 1 April 1945. Her first recorded annual leave was from 17 September 1945. On her MI5 trace her father is listed as Major W.J.P. Martin and her husband was Lawrence George Edward Clarke.

HS 9/321/4


Clarkson, Kathleen May: born 8 April 1921, in Hackney, East London, Kathleen was employed by SOE on 22 May 1944 as a secretary. She left the UK for India on 22 January 1945, returning to the UK on 10 April 1946. Kathleen was a FANY from 22 December 1944, and after training at STS 46 became a cipher operator which increased her salary from £165.00 to £210.00, presumably per annum.

From October 1941 until joining SOE in 1944, she was a shorthand typist with Balfour Beatty & Co.

In the hobbies section of her documents, she recorded ‘cycling, walking on hostel tours, needlework, canteen, Sunday School, reading and music.’ She is recorded as just 5ft tall and 7 st 6lbs.

HS 9/323/4


Cockerill, Carol Wendy (Mrs): born 13 December 1920 in London, SOE ran a trace on Carol on 6 February 1942 to employ her as a secretary at General Headquarters in Delhi. Before this, Carol had worked at the consulate in Basra from June 1940 to May 1941, and at the Army Intelligence School in Karachi from September 1941. It appears that she had a short stay at GHQ Delhi, as she had ‘been discharged vide New Delhi cable dated 12.5.42. No.385.’ That is all there is in the file…

HS 9/331/2


Coldstream (Mrs), F., B/B168:


Coleridge (Mrs), E.M., B/B910:


Collie, I., B/B913:


Corder, N.A.G., B/B385:


Cowan (Mrs), J.I., B/B765:


Crawford (Mrs), I.A., B/B765:


Crosbie-Hill (Mrs), J.M., B/B761:


Davey, B/B845

Davidson, (Mrs) B., B/B359


Davies, (Mrs) G.D., B/B912


Davis, (Mrs) L.O., B/B155


Dawson, (Mrs) A.M.G., B/B915


Day, B/B844


De Grey, Lavender Hyacinth: born 14 October 1923 in Putney Heath, Lavender was the daughter of Lord and Lady Walsingham. Her MI5 trace was run in April 1942, and she joined SOE as a FANY from May. On 5 May 1944, she left the UK for Algiers. Her return date is ‘undated’, but she left the UK for India on Valentine’s Day 1945, not returning until early 1946.

The Walsingham estate, shown in 1942 as Lavender’s home address, was requisitioned by the government during the war for troops to train for DDay. The government never allowed the villagers to return, and the lands remain part of the MOD’s training areas.

The Peerage

HS 9/621/2


Denton, (Mrs) Dorothy Alice, B/B755: born 3 August 1920 in Simla, India, Dorothy was employed as a secretary from 19 November 1943. Her husband, identified on the MI5 trace, was ‘S/Conductor Frank Denton’ at GHQ (1).

HS 9/419/5


Divers, E.H.C., B/B914


Dodds, Hilary Beaufoy: born 28 August 1926 in Edinburgh, Hilary was a student when SOE looked to employ her just after her 18th birthday. She left for India on 23 October 1944 and was signed off on 20 November 1945 after her return to the UK.

HS 9/438/6


Douglass, (Mrs) P.M., B/B375


Drew, (Mrs) A.M., B/B363


Dunne, M., B/B164


Durlacher, M.I., B/B321


Eagles, N.A.M., B/B356:


Eardley, M.M., B/B305


Eddy


Elliott, Ursula Mary Hamilton: born 16 August 1917 in Maidstone, Kent, Ursula joined SOE in November 1944. She worked at London HQ before leaving for India on Valentine’s Day 1945. She was signed off on her return to the UK on 20 May 1946.

Ursula was employed as a confidential secretary and as a FANY ‘has been promoted to the highest rank possible whilst so employed’ (Cadet Ensign):

HS 9/477/3


Evison, (Mrs) P.H., B/B378


Captain Fenemore-Bell, Mabel Tereza (Nee Macy), B/B897: born 17 May 1917 in Alexandria, Egypt, Mabel was employed by SOE from 24 November 1941 until 4 February 1946.

She was recruited in London and joined as a FANY. Before SOE, she had worked as a naval liaison officer dealing with ciphers in the office of the Rear Admiral in Alexandria (1939-1941). She was described as ‘highly satisfactory’ at her job there.

She was posted to India in January 1944 where she worked at Meerut in India, and later in 1945 – after some home leave – at Kandy in Ceylon.

Mabel’s father, Fred Macy had died at sea during the Great War, and although she was married to Lieutenant Patrick Fenemore Bell, her record describes them as separated.

HS 9/119/1


Ferguson, June Margaret, B/B919: born 20 June 1920 in Kuala Lumpur, June was fluent in Tamil and Malay. She was employed by SOE from 5 May 1944 as a Cipherette in Colombo. Her father is shown as Captain John Ferguson, born Natal, on her MI5 trace. Apparently, June ‘Left for Malaya on own initiative’ on 31 August 1945, and was ‘re-engaged’ at Rs400 in Singapore from 13 September 1945 (Rs25 more than Colombo).

HS 9/506/8


Fleury, (Mrs) P.J., B/B796:


Forest, (Mrs) M.D., B/B396:


Francis


George, Jean Hilda: born 20 March 1921 in London, Jean was working for the Ministry of Aircraft Production before joining SOE on 3 April 1945. She left for India on 4 May. From 29 May she worked in Kandy, Ceylon, as a shorthand typist. She resigned from Force 136 on 13 November 1945 as she had been given a position at HQ SACSEA in Singapore.

HS 9/577/4


Gurner, F., B/B182:


Hall, Joyce: born 9 May 1920 in South Shields, County Durham, Joyce was a FANY. She was employed as a W/T operator at STS 54 from 21 February 1944, leaving for India on 26 September that year. She signed her termination of employment in India on 23 November 1945. Before joining SOE, Joyce was a nurse for two years and nine months.

HS 9/646/4


Harman, P.L., B/B311:


Harris, Vera Margaret: born 29 October 1923 in Chelsea, London, Vera was employed by SOE as a secretary from 19 June 1944. She left for India on 29 August. She ended up workig as a Cipherette in Meerut from 27 September 1944, and joined the FANYs on 31 January 1945.

HS 9/668/2


Hay-Jahans, C., B/B351:


Haynes, C.L., B/B749:


Helmsley, (Mrs) M.E., B/B750:


Herbert, B., B/B794:


Hobbs, Joyce, nee Taylor (B/B791):  Born in London on 8 February 1917, Joyce attended Glyn Road School in Hackney 1921-28 and then North Hackney Central School from 1929-34.  She worked as a secretary from leaving school, and was picked up by SOE from a Solicitors’ firm in late 1943. She expressed a desire to go overseas and so she left for India on 22 January 1944.  On her SOE form she is described as 5”8 (actually 5″3) with brown hair and grey eyes, and single. She could ride and cycle, and type 75 words per minute. She worked as a secretary for Burma Country Section (BCS) and was posted to Burma on what looks like 6 July 1945 (the hole punch is on the date!) until 16 July 1945 (just ten days?).

The war found her love, and she married Major Hobbs of Siam Country Section (SCS) on 25 (actually 20) September 1945.  

Tom and Joyce marriage announcement

She is recorded as being in Bangkok working for SCS from 26 September 1945.  Her husband, Tom, also worked for SOE, in Siam.  Here’s his obituary. Joyce returned to the UK in December 1945.  

HS 9/718/1 


Hobson (Mrs) G.J., B/B744:


Hook, B/B841:


Hope (Mrs) B.M., B/B354:


Houghton, I.M.J., B/B916:


Lieutenant Howe, Audrey Madeleine (nee Hungerford-Jackson): born 10 March 1920 in Plymouth, the daughter of Lt.Col. Cecil Hungerford-Jackson, Audrey was employed by SOE from 16 November 1943. She worked as a secretary in Meerut, where she was recruited. She married Robert Douglas Howe of the Indian Civil Service on 16 September 1944. By the 1 January 1945, she was earning Rs600 as a Staff Lieutenant. She resigned from SOE on 21 December 1945.

HS 9/783/4


Hume, (Mrs) E.E., B/B769:


Humphreys, (Mrs) L.K., B/B109:


Hutton, (Mrs) E.W., B/B767:


Jackson, A.M.H., B/B751:


Johnson, (Mrs) M., B/B777:


Johnson, M.B., B/B899:


Jordan, Isobel Anstis: born 8 August 1923 in Kuala Lumpur, Isobel commenced employment with SOE on her 21st birthday. She had just finished her Maths degree at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. She left for India on 3 November 1944, where she worked in Meerut for most of December before going to Kandy. Her job is recorded as mail clerk and registry, for which she was earning Rs400 by 1 April 1945.

She resigned from SOE on 19 November 1945 to take up a position at HQ ALFSEA in Singapore.

HS 9/812/2


Kennedy, (Mrs) J., B/B898:


Knox, Christian Russell: born in 1918 in Bihar, India, Christian was recruited locally from 10 August 1944. She had seven years secretarial experience working for Dunlop Rubber in India. She remained with SOE until 31 January 1946.

HS 9/851/8


Kyte, (Mrs) C.E.L., B/B799:


Lakeland, (Mrs) P., B/B355:


Lane, D.J., B/B111:


Lascelles, (Mrs) B/B758:


Lawrenson, Helen: born 27 February 1917 in Eaglescliffe, Stockton-on-Tees, Helen joined SOE on 18 October 1944. She worked at London HQ until sailing for India on 10 December. She was employed as a FANY shorthand typist. Before joining SOE she had worked as a confidential secretary to the director of a chemical firm. Her interests included playing Bridge and Chess, and discussion groups.

HS 9/897/4


Le Cheminant, (Mrs) D.J., B/B387:


Lee, Joyce Eden (nee Burn): born Cleadon, County Durham 13 May 1920. Joyce was employed as a civilian secretary from 4 June 1945. She left the UK for India on 10 July 1945 and was signed off on her return to the UK on 22 March 1946. She worked for the Siam Country Section (SCS). Joyce appears to have found her husband in India, marrying R.H. Lee of 357 (SD) Squadron on 6 December 1945.

HS 9/905/1


Lemmon, (Mrs) R.R., B/B747:


Lindop, (Mrs) E., B/B158:


Lindsay, A.E., B/B763:


Lindsay, (Mrs) J., B/B788:


LLoyd, (Mrs) E.L., B/B741:


Lockey, Irene Kathleen: born 7 December 1918 in London, Irene was employed as a secretry from 13 March 1945, and left for India on 4 May. She had previously worked in Spain for two years as secretary to the head of the wolfram department of UK Commercial Corportation (UKCC), 19 May 1943 – 9 March 1945.

HS 9/933/4


Long, (Mrs) M.E., B/B364:


Cadet Ensign Lorry Cowry, E., B/B927:


Lieutenant Loe, J.G., B/B727: no personnel file. ‘(Miss presumed killed)’ on the personnel listing.


Lumsden, Helen Jane: born 16 January 1920 in Cults Aberdeenshire, Helen had been in the WAAF for over two years when SOE picked her up in July 1943 with a view to employing her as a driver. By September 1943, she was a secretary at Station 53B and enroled as a FANY. She left the UK for India on 5 September 1945 and continued with SOE until 7 May 1946, reaching the rank of Corporal.

HS 9/949/2


Luwan, (Mrs) M., B/B369:


Mackenzie, (Mrs) E.C., B/B108:


Mackessack, (Mrs) R.E., B/B374:


Marder, B.O., B/B740:


Marshall, Yvonne Joan: born 30 September 1920 in London, Yvonne attended the Camden School for Girls (1929-1937) and was working for the Bank of England from 1939. She joined SOE on 23 December 1943 as a FANY, ending up with the rank of Lieutenant by March 1945. Before going to India, she worked for F Section, where she ‘proved extremely capable and reliable and was highly recommended by the officer for whom she worked.’ She was secretary to ‘FT’, and was ‘fully capable of dealing with matters’ when he was away. She left for India on 5 September 1945, and returned in early 1946. It appears that India was not her only overseas assignment, as there is a record of her leaving the UK on 21 October 1944 to go to SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force).

HS 9/994/7


Mason (Mrs) E.W.H., B/B767:


May, B/B847:


McKenzie, (Mrs) D.M., B/B786:


Mellor, E.C.A., B/B909:


Commander Merriman, G., B/B922:


Middleton, J., B/B181:


Mills, (Mrs) P.E.M., B/B151:


Mitchell, I., B/B368:


Modin, (Mrs) J.W., B/B782:


Cadet Ensign Moon, V., B/B926:


Mossman, (Mrs) K.J.H.F., B/B380:


Murray-Clarke, (Mrs) S., B/B372:


Murray-Smith, (mrs) U.M., B/B759:


Myer, A.B., B/B896:


Neil, (Mrs) C.E., B/B795:


Newdick, Sheilah Mary (Nee Doherty): born 10 May 1920 in Tottenham, London, Sheilah was employed as a secretary from 1 May 1944. She left for India on 18 July that year, and worked in Delhi until 30 November 1945 when she resigned breaking her contract. She forfeited any right to repatriation to the UK. Sheilah returned to the UK in March 1946 and applied for a job with Savory & Moore Ltd, for which SOE provided a helpful reference. It seems likely that she forfeited her return passage to stay in India with her husband as her record shows she was Miss Doherty when she left for India, and she appears to have left SOE in November at a natural conclusion to her service.

HS 9/109/2 Note spelling of ‘Sheila’ here, not ‘Sheilah’ as written by her on her forms.


Olsen, N.A.G. (nee Corder): born 9 March 1921 in Folkestone, Kent. Olsen’s file does not provide her first name(s). She was recruited in Poona, India, on 21 July 1943 and worked at the Eastern Warfare School India (EWSI) in Poona as a Cipherette until she shifted to the Special Forces Development Centre in 1944. From 30 January 1945, she was back at EWSI. It would appear that she got married during her time working with SOE.

HS 9/1122/2


Owen, P.F.J., B/B742:


Parker, M.B., B/B797:


Parsons, L.J., B/B389:


Pattenden, (Mrs) J., B/B113:


Phillip, (Mrs) L., B/B157:


Phillips, G.E., B/B793:


Phillips, (Mrs) L.M.A., B/B384:


Pitt, S., B/B165:


Pointon, (Mrs) M.G., B/B393:


Porter, R.L., BB382:


Prentice, (Mrs) C.A., B/B768:


Preston, Nellie Elvira: born on 10 December 1920 in Raynes Park, London, Nellie was employed as an Insurance Clerk before SOE. She was recruited on 8 August 1944 and left for India on 10 December. From 20 January 1945 until the end of the war she was employed in Ceylon at Kandy and latterly Colombo. Nellie was repatriated to the UK on the Duchess of Richmond on 28 October 1945.

Before the war, Nellie had been in school until age 18, which seems to have been quite unusual. She finished at Wimbledon School of Art and went into employment as a fashion artist. She was made redundant due to the war which had prompted a 50% reduction in staff employed in ‘luxury trades’ in 1940.

HS 9/1210/1


Puckridge, (Mrs) E.M., B/B781:


Purser, (Mrs) M.E., B/B318:


Quigley, (Mrs) R.M., B/B918:


Ensign Rawson, M.E., B/B685:


Reid, Fanny Noelle: born 24 December 1920 in Colombo, Ceylon, Fanny was employed as a secretary from 23 January 1945. She left for India on 6 March 1945, and returned just over twelve months later on 28 March 1946. She was assigned to Siam Country Section as a Stenographer and Typist until 15 June when she worked in Q ops (Supplies). This was due to an ‘Adverse report of her work from Lt.Col. Pointon O/C S.C.S.’

Her record shows she had twelve days off work with a lacerated foot in July, as well as Dengue fever in August and Dyspepsia in February 1946.

Before joining SOE, Fanny had attended Mrs Hoster’s Secretarial College and then worked for both the Treasury and the Prime Minister’s Office between 1941 and 1943.

HS 9/1243/4


Cadet Ensign Rigby, J.M., B/B928:


Ringham, (Mrs) E., B/B771:


Robertson, (Mrs) L.D., B/B779:


Cadet Ensign Robertson, M., B/B931:


Robinson, A.V., B/B754:


Robinson, (Mrs) F.W., B/B772:


Ronald, Sarah Jennings: born 13 November 1920 in Smallhythe, Kent, Sarah was a FANY who joined SOE relatively late on 29 June 1945. She was employed as a coder, typex and typist, leaving for India on 7 August. She returned to the UK in April 1946, and is reorded as signing off from SOE on 30 April.

Before SOE, Sarah worked at Bletchley Park as a cypher machine operator. She was a stamp collector, dress maker and enjoyed all sports.

HS 9/1279/3


Ross, Beatrice Anna: born 18 February 1920 in Allangrange, Scotland, Beatrice joined SOE on 24 April 1944 and left for India on 9 June that year. From 1937-1940 she had been employed as a shorthand typist, and from 1940 to 1944 served inn the WRNS.

On arrival in India, she worked in Meerut until 3 September 1944 when she was employed in Poona at the Special Forces Development Centre. In March 1945, she went to Kandy, Ceylon. Beatrice sailed for the UK on 15 September 1945.

HS 9/1283/3


Rost, K.G.H., B/B920:


Ryley, (Mrs) M., B/B783:


Sander, (Mrs) V.A., B/B753:


Scott, A.A., B/B778:


Sears, F.M., B/B745:


Selwyn, (Mrs) C.G., B/B399:


Shebbeare, (Mrs) H.M., B/B775:


Sherwood, (Mrs) A.F., B/B153


Skill, H.Y., B/B773:


Skill, Veda Neave, B/B358: born 9 October 1920 in Bangalore, India, Veda was employed by SOE from 3 March 1943. Before joining SOE, she had worked at the RNI Cipher Office in Bombay. She continued as a cipher clerk in Poona, but her record does not reveal anything more.

HS 9/1370/5


Smith, Margaret Ada: born 24 February 1921 in Northampton, Margaret was a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) Nurse at the RAF hospital in Ely, Cambridgeshire before joining SOE as a secretary from 26 June 1944. She apparently left for India on 29 August 1944, but is recorded as working as a clerk in the camp commandant’s office in Colombo from 22 July 1944.

Margaret returned to the UK onboard the Duchess of Richmond from 28 October 1945. She was employed fairly swiftly as a doctor’s secretary on what she thought was a decent salary (£5 p/w) until she ‘found out what the income tax was.’ After the war, she applied to work as a secretary in the Governor’s office in the Gold Coast (Ghana). Whether she got it is not recorded.

She obviously has quite a bit of personality, as she wrote to the SOE office in London, opening with ‘Do you remember me – the Pest!’ Later on, she asks ‘How are all the abandoned females returning from the East?’ She finished her letter with ‘thanks for your help when I returned so forlornly’.

HS 9/1381/5


Spalding, (Mrs) F.M.E.D., B/B361:


Stephenson, C., B/B787:


Stephenson, (Mrs) E.H., B/B787:


Story, (Mrs) P.M., B/B381:


Strickland, (Mrs) E.M.G., B/B353:


Studholme-Wilson (Mrs) J.N., B/B752:


Cadet Ensign Suckling, B/B932:


Sully, Myra Stafford: born 8 November 1921 in Neath, Wales, Myra joined SOE in November 1944 as a shorthand typist. After about a month at London HQ, she sailed for India on 10 December 1944. She was enroled as a FANY. She signed off from SOE on 9 January 1946.

HS 9/1427/6


Swan, (Mrs) M.C., B/B748:


Tandy, B/B840:


Taylor, Denise Ursula (nee Woodward): born 15 November 1919 in London, Denise was to be employed as a senior secretary from 13 December 1943. She left for India on 22 January 1944. On reporting for duty in India on 10 March, there was a back log of ‘dull’ clerking jobs owing to the expansion of Force 136. This caused Denise to dispute her contract and culminated in her walking out of her job with SOE. The resulting correspondence shows that she refused to be brow-beaten by the threat to have her deported to Britain for breach of contract, and she ended up staying in India and marrying Squadron Leader D.L. Taylor in August 1944 – and working as Forces Radio compere.

HS 9/1445/1


Taylor, J., B/B791:


Tew, (Mrs) F., B/B371:


Thomas, Helen Harran (nee Gilmour) B/B383: born 2 October 1916 in Greenock, Scotland, Helen had worked for Jardine Matheson & Co. in Shanghai, with whom she had a ‘GOOD RECORD’. Her MI5 trace is dated 5 September 1941, so she joined the original Oriental Mission before the war with Japan started and worked as a secretary in Singapore.

An entry dated 11 March 1942 indicates that Helen left SOE at that date, but by June 1943, she was working in the Political Warfare Division of SOE as a secretary, and by 1944 she was earning Rs700 (the largest wage seen yet).

HS 9/1459/2


Thompson, (Mrs) B.R., B/B776:


Thomson, Helen Mary: born 13 April 1921 in Ashford, Kent, Helen was a secretary at the Bank of England before she joined SOE on 23 January 1945. She had attended the City of London Secretarial College in January 1938 after attending Christ’s Hospital from January 1931 to September 1937.

She left for India on 6 March 1945 and was signed of on 26 April 1946 after her return to the UK. While in the Far East, she worked in Colombo, Kandy and Meerut. A medical note from 21 May 1946 shows that she was suffering from Lamblia (small worms in the intestine) which was not considered a serious condition. The treatment was paid for by SOE, a total of £3. & 3 Shillings (about £111.99 in 2017).

HS 9/1464/6


Thunder, (Mrs) J., B/B152:


Tidmarsh, B/B312:


Tinney, (Mrs P.G.D., B/B397:


Tostee, K.M., B/B362:


Townsend, Doreen Marie: born 29 June 1921 in Neasden, London, Doreen was employed as a W/T operator at STS 54 from 24 March 1943. Prior to joining SOE, her occupation is recorded as ‘Student on Singing’.

Doreen left for India on 14 February 1945, returning to the UK in April 1946.

HS 9/1479/8


Trigger, Eileen Shirley: born 20 April 1920 in Newcastle, Staffordshire, Eileen was employed as a secretary from 14 November 1944, recruited by FANY HQ. She left for India on Valentine’s Day 1945 after a spell at STS 46, and was signed off on return to the UK on 28 March 1946. Before joining SOE, she worked as a secretary to the director of production in an Engineering Company.

HS 9/1484/3


Varney, Marjorie (nee Goodfellow): born 19 April 1917 inn London, Marjorie was a dictaphone typist. She was employed as a secretary by SOE from 19 September 1944, and left for India on 3 November. After a brief spell in Meerut a a typist, she was posted to Kandy where she worked as a cipherette from 23 December to 25 May 1945. She was then back at Meerut until reporting back in the UK inn November 1945. Her English salary was £210 p/a plus a billet allowance of 15/-d per week.

Before SOE she worked as a dictaphone typist for the Dictaphon Company Ltd from November 1941 until SOE recruited her. Between 1935 and 1939, she worked for The General Asphalte Company Ltd., leaving because she got married (5 August 1940). She then worked for Prudential 1939-1941, which she left because of the Ministry for Labour. Her husband was Eric Ernest Varney, born 3 June 1908.

HS 9/1520/6


Vivier, (Mrs) J.A. du., B/B743:


Walker, (Mrs) V.E., B/B365:


Walshe, E.H.M., B/B760:


Warwick, Phyllis Elizabeth Frances: born 15 July 1909, in Gosport, Hampshire, Phyllis is unusual in that she was first vetted for SOE in March 1944 but not employed. There is no clue as to why. Presumeably she continued to work as a VAD until vetted a second time in May 1945. This time she joined SOE as a FANY and she left for India on 5 September 1945. She signed her termination papers in India on 20 November 1945.

HS 9/1559/8


Wasey, (Mrs) E.S., B/B780:


Watts, Sheila Annie: born 24 August 1921 in Quarry Dene near Woolacombe in Devon, Sheila was a telephonist at the Post Office before joining SOE in November 1944. She was a wireless operator at STS 54a and STS 52a&b before she left for India on 8 June 1945. Employed as a FANY volunteer, she signed off from SOE on 13 February 1946 when she returned to the UK.

HS 9/1565/1


Webster, J.B., B/B762:


Welstead, B/B838:


Wemyss, A.L., B/B390:


Whittenbury, (Mrs) M., B/B394:


Captain Will, Bertine Melba (nee Rix): born in Budaun, India, in March 1902, Bertine was educated at the Sherborne School for Girls before studying Medicine and Surgery at St. Mary’s Hospital, London University. Her husband, James Hampton Brown Will is recorded as being imprisoned in Changi, Singapore. From 1933 to 1940, Bertine worked as a GP in Malaya; from 1940-42 she was assistant to Dr Thompson in Somerset. By 1943, she was in India serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps having been granted an Emergency Commissionin July 1943. In January 1945 she joined Force 136 as a Medical Officer for Group A (Burma, Siam, French Indochina) and was based at ME81 in Calcutta. In July, she moved to ME82 in Colombo where she was MO at HQ for Group B.


Wilson, (Mrs) M.L.J., B/B391:


Wolstenholme, (Mrs) I.D., B/B798:


Woodward, D.U., B/B792:


Wright, Angela Mary: born 14 February 1924 in Dublin, Angela was a student at Cheltenham Ladies’ College when SOE looked into employing her in March 1943. From 15 may 1943, she was employed as a FANY W/T operator at STS 54. On 26 September 1944, Angela left for India, and was signed off after her return to the UK on 5 December 1945. Her home address is recorded as Surrenden Road in Brighton.

HS 9/1622/6