In a previous post  (Face values)I wrote about not taking people at face value. The most ordinary looking person may have the most extraordinary history.

Eileen Nearnes was one of these people. If we had met her we would probably have thought, (if we thought about her at all), that she was a nice quiet lady, possibly a retired teacher/civil servant etc.

She lived in Torquay with only her cat for company. She worshipped at her local R.C. church and never talked much about her past and when she died recently it was not until officials were sorting her belongings, prior to arranging a small funeral, and found medals and documents in french that the truth came out.

Eileen was one of that band of very brave people who volunteered to serve with the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) set up to train operatives to be parachuted into occupied Europe to work with the Resistance.

Most of us have heard of Violette Szabo and Odette Churchill from the books and films about them, but the rest of them who survived have just melted back into everyday life, maybe living, what seems to others, a humdrum life, just as Eileen did. Maybe they are living on your road or travelling on your bus!

Eileen was captured three times  and once tortured by the Gestapo, but managed to talk her way out of it and carried on with her work.

Fortunately her past was discovered in time for a House of Commons motion to be tabled to give her a decent funeral and yesterday she was given a full Requiem Mass attended by members of the Royal British Legion and many people from around the country, with all the honour due to this modest heroine.

Today we use bravery to describe anything from surviving minor disappointment to winning a race or a competition, but this is surely what bravery really means.

There are some who say that Remembrance Day should finish because it glorifies war, but I think it is so that we can remember people like Eileen and all the brave people who served in the wars, whether in the armed forces, the emergency services or in reserved occupations keeping the nation fed and warmed and supplying the forces. Most people in their late eighties and nineties served in some way and deserve our respect.

If only the politicians and world leaders would learn lessons from these wars so that they could sort out their differences peacefully, then the sacrifices made by so many would not have been in vain.

Advertisements