May 19, 2022

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Noreen Riouls: “I joined the British Secret Service without knowing it”

From 1943 to 1946, Noreen Riouls worked for the popular SOE, an English secret organization that coordinated the struggle against the invaders in Europe. At age 95, she still remembers it. Sunday, March 13 at midnight 39/45, to find the ladies of victory at the LCP.

How did you get hired at 17? Churchill ?

Norin Reals: Even today, I still don’t know how I got there (she burst out laughing). At the time, in England, young people had two options: to work in an arms factory that I did not like, or to join the Armed Forces. I wanted to join the Navy because I found their hat so attractive … then my father was in the Royal Navy. I signed my acknowledgment at the Foreign Office and was told to run to Baker Street from there.

Where was the headquarters of Churchill’s famous secret force!

Yes, but I did not know it then! Like most Londoners, I have visited this building many times without knowing what is behind it! When I entered, I could not believe my eyes: people running through open doors and corridors or calling each other from one office to another.

What were your tasks?

I had a diploma as a bilingual secretary, so I typed descriptions of agents returning from work, and I also watched personal messages being sent in French on the BBC’s waves. Fighter parachutes were informed about the future of parachutes: in men, in weapons, in food, in clothes …

Popular news that is not understood when first heard …

Yes, they were clearly shown in the air, but the Germans always thought it was a sophisticated code … not really a code. We started reading the news 3 or 5 days before the planned parachute fall, and on the said day, we added a color to the lesson. “This is for tonight”. For example, we said again “The goat has eaten the grandfather’s underwear” Until D-Day when we said “Goat ate Grandpa’s green boxing shorts” (She laughs).

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Did you feel that your life was in danger?

Not more than the others. During the war in London, the bombings affected everyone. What is certain is that this war made me grow so fast.

Do your friends, family, and loved ones know about your commitment?

I was forbidden to tell anyone. In 2000 I got permission to talk about this. My parents died and I never found it. I think Dad was a little skeptical though.

Do you continue to serve in the military after leaving the service in 1946?

No, but I spent six years at the BBC designing their various programs. Then I became a nurse.

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