The English seaside town of Torquay, once home to the exalted Agatha Christie, has produced another thriller, although one that is decidedly less known.
On September 2nd, 89 year old Eileen Nearne reached the end of her life, passing away in her small flat. She had no known relatives or friends, preferring a cloistered existence to see out the end of her days.
With no funeral arrangements made, authorities decided to enter Ms Nearne’s flat to search for clues of any would be relatives, when they discovered the extraordinary life of a women that lay concealed to the last.
Numerous war medals were found, as well as papers revealing she was once known as ‘Agent Rose’, a secret spy who worked for Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s covert operation against Nazi espionage during WWII.
Both Nearne and her sister were trained in an isolated Scottish castle by the clandestine ‘Special Operations Executive’ (SOE), before Nearne was sent to France in 1944. It was here, as an agent, she was to recruit an underground organisation of resistance fighters plotting against Nazi Germany.
While undercover, Nearne was captured by the Gestapo, before she convinced them of an alternative identity through her fluent French and was released. However, she was soon caught again and sent to a forced labour camp in Silesia.
Here she was stripped and her head was forced under icy water, which nearly drowned her. Still, she didn’t spill the beans, stoically maintaining her charade as an innocent French girl joining the resistance “for fun”.
However, it was her skills with Morse code and communications that kept Nearne in touch with UK agents, which eventually lead to her escape. She was caught again, until a crafty slip led her into the arms of a priest, who hid her in Leipzig until US troops landed.
Eventually returning home, Nearne was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for her efforts, before living many years with her sister. She was described by co-workers as “well above average” in both abilities and courage.
In 1982, her sister passed away, and Nearne moved to Torquay where she lived out the remainder of her days alone, by the sea, never to speak of her life again.
Fast reaching posthumous fame, Ms Nearne is being hailed by the British media as ‘Eleanor Rigby’, the fictitious spinster from the renown Beatles song who died alone, very much unknown. However, unlike Eleanor Rigby, she will now not be “buried along with her name”.
Although it appears she would have preferred it that way.