In September 2011 Kate passed her PhD in history entitled 'The women agents of the Special Operations Executive F section – wartime realities and post war representations' at the University of Leeds. The abstract is below and at the bottom of the page you will find the thesis attached. The copy of this thesis has been supplied on the understanding that it is copyright material and that no quotation from the thesis may be published without proper acknowledgement.
The right of Elizabeth Kate Vigurs to be identified as Author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. © 2011
This thesis is an evaluation of the wartime experiences of the female agents of SOE F section and their post war representation through books, films and post-war publicity. The first section looks at selection and training and whether women were treated differently because of their sex, it also shows that the various wartime experiences of the women were different and unique, not fitting into a stock scenario and showing that not all agents who were captured were tortured or executed. The fascination with women agents is addressed and why it is they who have captured the public imagination, not the male agents.
The next section provides two case studies, Odette Churchill and Violette Szabo, these two agents were both awarded the George Cross and have become household names. Odette was heavily involved in creating her own post war image and also contributed to that of Violette. The thesis assesses why these two agents have become renowned and how their constructions have influenced public perception of the SOE and caused myths and fictions to become part of the perceived popular wisdom.
Odette’s influence is discussed further in chapters that evaluate the role of film in the post war representation of the agents, ‘Odette’ and ‘Carve her name with pride’ are discussed in terms of how agents are represented, what liberties have been taken with the truth and the importance of historical accuracy in a film. The influence of the films ‘Odette’ and ‘Carve her name with pride’ over films made post 1958 and how they have contributed to the inconsistencies and myths that surround the world of SOE and its agents are investigated.
An analysis of memorials to the women of SOE F section highlights the difficulties in memorialising such a diverse group of women. Issues that arise include politics, the need to commemorate, the form of the memorial, whether the memorial is site specific and what that means to its impact on visitors, whether the memorial is individual or collective and how a memorial can influence personal responses.
The thesis can be found by following this link: