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Blue plaque honor for Winston Churchill's favorite spy Christine Granville


A wartime spy dubbed Winston Churchill's favorite was eventually remembered with a blue plaque.

Christine Granville that was Krystyna Skarbek was born in Warsaw and joined the British secret service in 1939 and is said to have inspired Ian Fleming's spy character Vesper Lynd.

She fought after the war and got cheap accommodation in a London hotel of the Polish Relief Society.

Krystyna Skarbek, aka Christine Granville (pictured), was one of the most effective special agents to serve Britain during World War II

It was her home until she was murdered by a stalker in 1952 at the age of 44.

The English Heritage Blue Plaque was unveiled in the former Shelbourne Hotel (now 1 Lexham Gardens) in Kensington and bears both her original name and the name she has adopted.

Granville's daring exploits and formidable career during the war were widely accepted as the inspiration for Bond author Fleming for double agent Lynd at Casino Royale.

Author Clare Mulley, who penned Granville's biography, The Spy Who Loved, said the real spy is more impressive.

She said, “I have to say Christine is much more than a Bond girl.

"She's more Bond. And she's more than that because she's real.

Danger: Eva Green as Vesper Lynd (the Christine Granville-inspired character) and Daniel Craig as 007

Danger: Eva Green as Vesper Lynd (the Christine Granville-inspired character) and Daniel Craig as 007

“Too often women in resistance are remembered for their beauty, their courage or their last sacrifice. We're less good at celebrating women's accomplishments.

& # 39; Krystyna Skarbek, aka Christine Granville, was one of the most effective special agents to serve Britain, male or female, during World War II.

Her successes, which included securing the raid of an entire German garrison in a strategic pass in the Alps and rescuing many of her male colleagues, led Churchill to label her his favorite spy, and Great Britain to honor her with the George Medal and OBE. & # 39;

The spy, who used various aliases, was given a British passport in the name of Christine Granville at the beginning of the conflict.

She later wrote, "I want to keep the Granville name that I made for myself and that I'm quite proud of."

The former Shelbourne Hotel (now 1 Lexham Gardens in Kensington, pictured above), operated by the Polish Relief Society, was the home of Christine Granville from 1949 until she was murdered by a stalker in 1952

The former Shelbourne Hotel (now 1 Lexham Gardens in Kensington, pictured above), operated by the Polish Relief Society, was the home of Christine Granville from 1949 until she was murdered by a stalker in 1952

Christine Granville's ID. She was born in Poland as Krystyna Skarbek but became an English agent after the outbreak of World War II

Christine Granville's ID. She was born in Poland as Krystyna Skarbek but became an English agent after the outbreak of World War II

Granville fought after the war, returning to London in early 1949 and going through a number of short-lived trifles before becoming a stewardess on cruise lines.

She was given cheap accommodation at the Shelbourne Hotel, operated by the Polish Relief Society, and her home from 1949 until she was murdered by a stalker in 1952.

Granville was Britain's longest-serving female special agent during World War II.

The author's uncle Michael Morpurgo, a British agent, was one of many people she saved.

The writer said: “Her extraordinary courage was forged by a love of freedom, hatred of the intruder and love for her beloved Poland.

English Heritage honors Krystyna Skarbek with a blue plaque to honor the memory of one of the most notable secret agents of World War II

English Heritage honors Krystyna Skarbek with a blue plaque to honor the memory of one of the most notable secret agents of World War II

She fought with great determination in Poland and France to resist a cruel and ruthless enemy and saved countless lives, including that of my uncle, also in the SOE (Special Operations Executive), Francis Cammaerts.

"Christine Granville has helped preserve our freedom, and we should always be grateful to her for that."

Arkady Rzegocki, the Polish Ambassador to London, said: “Skarbek made such an impression on British Prime Minister Winston Churchill that he called her his favorite spy. I am proud and delighted that English Heritage is honoring Krystyna Skarbek with a blue plaque to which she pays tribute in memory of one of the most notable secret agents of World War II. & # 39;

Only 14% of more than 950 Blue Plaques in London celebrate women.

The charity said, "If we are to continue to see significant increases in the number of blue badges for women, we need more female proposals."

The real Vesper Lynd who made James Bond look tame: Christine Granville wore a 7-inch knife on her thigh, preferred hand grenades, and seduced with just one look. When she is finally honored, RICHARD KAY tells her exciting story

BY RICHARD KAY EDITOR GREAT FOR THE DAILY MAIL

Christine Granville pictured in 1952

Christine Granville pictured in 1952

On a warm June evening in 1952, Christine Granville was returning to a shabby hotel in West London after dinner with friends when a man stormed into the lobby behind her.

It was Dennis Muldowney, an obsessed former lover, who asked for Billets-Doux to be returned.

44-year-old Christine, whose glamor and beauty seemed strangely out of place in such a dark address, was contemptible. She scoffed at the merchant seaman, whom she called a "lame dog," saying she destroyed all of his love letters and burned each one.

Suddenly he pulled out a knife and thrust it deep into her chest with one forceful movement. Christine had died of shock and bleeding in seconds.

He made no attempt to escape, stayed with her body until the police arrived, and asked for execution. He got his wish three months later when he was hanged for murder in Pentonville Prison. His last miserable words were: "Killing is the ultimate possession."

Such a crime of passion might not have been reported had it not been for the true identity of the flashy, dark-haired woman whose life was so brutally ended.

She had served as a secret agent during the war, and Special Branch even investigated whether her death could have been the work of vengeful ex-Nazis or communists, but found no evidence.

And tomorrow, almost 70 years later, a blue plaque will be unveiled in the now elegant hotel in Kensington, commemorating the remarkable life of Krystyna Skarbek, who was born in Warsaw, Poland, whose brave exploits not only made her Winston Churchill's favorite spy, but the inspiration for Vesper Lynd, James Bond's lover in Ian Fleming's Casino Royale.

In truth, she was more of a Bond than a Bond girl. She wore a razor-sharp 7-inch command knife in a leather sheath that was fastened to her thigh, and was also an expert in handling hand grenades, which she had preferred to weapons

In truth, she was more of a Bond than a Bond girl. She wore a razor-sharp seven-inch command knife in a leather sheath that was strapped to her thigh, and was also an expert on hand grenades, which she had preferred to weapons

In truth, she was more of a Bond than a Bond girl. She wore a razor-sharp seven-inch command knife in a leather sheath that was strapped to her thigh, and was also an expert on hand grenades, which she had preferred to weapons.

“You can defend yourself against one person at most with a pistol. With a hand grenade around five, maybe ten, ”she once explained.

She had also sewn a cyanide capsule into the hems of her skirts, a money belt filled with gold sovereigns, and a card printed on silk rather than paper to keep it from rustling when it was searched.

Their most devastating weapon, however, was their ability to charm men compared to an admirer with a searchlight that could blind anyone in its beam.

It was certainly useful when she was in a railroad car in occupied Poland, facing a Gestapo officer when troops came on board to look for passengers and their belongings.

She had a package that she said the uniformed Gestapo man contained black market tea. She fixed him with her dark, expressive eyes and asked if he would hold the package until the danger was over.

Christine had sewn a cyanide capsule into the hems of her skirts, a money belt filled with gold sovereigns, and a card printed on silk rather than paper to keep it from rustling when she was searched

Christine had sewn a cyanide capsule into the hems of her skirts, a money belt filled with gold sovereigns, and a card printed on silk rather than paper to keep it from rustling when she was searched

The package contained something far more incriminating than tea – British propaganda leaflets designed to bolster the Polish resistance, and discovering them would have executed her as a spy.

But like many men before and after him, it was impossible for the ignorant Nazi to resist Christine. A few hours later they parted at the Warsaw train station, the "tea" safely back in the hands of the woman who had an almost pathological need for excitement.

Skarbek was born in 1908 to a determined Polish aristocrat. He could ride, shoot and speak many languages ​​and learned smuggling routes "for kicks".

At the age of 14 she was expelled from her monastery for having lit a priest's cassock during mass. Later, when she bewitched men with what one admirer called “her sizzling vitality”, she spent a lot of time as a young woman in the fashionable ski resort of Zakopane.

There the 23-year-old Krystyna was crowned "Miss Ski" in a regional beauty contest in 1931. She also saw her appearance as runner-up in Miss Poland.

But she wasn't an empty headed pin-up. Their idea of ​​fun was to go to Czechoslovakia and avoid the border patrols to smuggle cigarettes back to Zakopane.

She was already with her second husband, a Polish count, when war broke out in 1939, and she fled to Great Britain, where she turned up at the supposedly secret MI6 headquarters and offered herself up as the first female spy.

The agency was skeptical because she was a foreign, half-Jewish woman, and found her too extravagant to work undercover. The British ambassador to Hungary cabled his concern that she had a "pathological love of danger" but was hired and sent back to her homeland, Poland, to spread propaganda and gather information.

Christine inspired the character of Vesper Lynd in Daniel Craig's first appearance as James Bond

Christine inspired the character of Vesper Lynd in Daniel Craig's first appearance as James Bond

When Christine – the name she had adopted in England – arrived in Poland in February 1940, not only was there a war, but it was also the worst winter in living memory, with temperatures of minus 30 in the mountains. Birds froze on the branches on which they slept.

None of this discouraged Christine, who brought back microfilm information on a later expedition that Germany had plans to invade the Soviet Union.

When she was arrested by the Gestapo in Budapest, she did one of her biggest stunts. During the interrogation, she bit her tongue so hard it was bleeding and began to cough to give the impression that she was bringing up blood.

Fearing that she might have tuberculosis, her kidnappers released both her and her then-lover Andrzej Kowerski, a one-legged Polish infantryman who was also classified as contagious.

Christine was unable to continue operating in Budapest and fled to Romania in the trunk of a car.

Christine had another outstanding trick - the ability to turn a man's head, which could explain why Fleming modeled the darkly attractive Vesper (played by Eva Green in the 2006 Bond film) after the dashing secret agent

Christine had another outstanding trick – the ability to turn a man's head, which could explain why Fleming modeled the darkly attractive Vesper (played by Eva Green in the 2006 Bond film) after the dashing secret agent

From there she made her way to Cairo and did office work while the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) wondered if she was a double agent after her apparently "easy" escape (she wasn't). It was reactivated and sent to France in July 1944 – shortly after D-Day – to convince the Poles who work for the Germans in the Alps to take up arms against them.

The aim was to climb 1,500 feet to an alpine garrison occupied by Polish Nazis, which warned them to overflow over a loud hailstorm. You broke German plans to attack Allied forces.

And in France, she performed her most breathtaking operations when she marched into the prison where several high-ranking French resistance leaders were to be executed.

With astonishing chutzpah, she convinced the local Gestapo that she was the goddaughter of the British commandant Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and that if the men were not released, a terrible fate would happen to them after the Allied victory. This trick worked along with a substantial bribe and the men were freed.

Eva Green played the Bond girl Vesper Lynd (pictured) in the 2006 film Casino Royale

Eva Green played the Bond girl Vesper Lynd (pictured) in the 2006 film Casino Royale

As we've seen, Christine had another outstanding trick – the ability to turn a man's head, which might explain why Fleming modeled the darkly attractive Vesper (played by Eva Green in the 2006 Bond film) after the dashing secret agent.

Although her bravery was marked with the George Medal, an OBE and the Croix de Guerre, after the war she was shabbily treated by her former employers at SOE and laid off with only one month's salary.

She made a living doing a number of low-paying jobs: waitress, stewardess in third-class cabins on passenger ships, and hat check maid in Harrods.

For all her war heroics, hers was not a glorious ending. But she was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery in north-west London under a layer of Polish soil smuggled out of the then communist land. And tomorrow her outstanding life will finally be recognized in her adopted country.

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