Female agent who was Churchill’s favourite spy gets Blue Plaque

Britain’s first female special agent, who was called Churchill’s favourite spy, has been remembered with a Blue Plaque.

Christine Granville, Britain's first female special agent, who was called Churchill's favourite spy. Picture: English Heritage/PA Wire

Christine Granville faced what she described as “the horrors of peace” after her outstanding wartime career.

Her successful spy missions included smuggling microfilm across Europe to prove Hitler’s plans to invade the Soviet Union, skiing over the Polish border in temperatures of -30°C and rescuing French Resistance agents from the Gestapo.

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Granville, who was born Krystyna Skarbek in Warsaw and joined British Intelligence after Germany invaded Poland, is said to have inspired Ian Fleming’s spy character Vesper Lynd, from his Bond novel Casino Royale.

Author Clare Mulley, who penned Granville’s biography The Spy Who Loved, said: “All too often women in the Resistance are remembered for their beauty and courage, while their achievements are overlooked.

“Krystyna Skarbek, aka Christine Granville, was one of the most effective special agents to serve Britain during the Second World War, male or female. Her achievements, which included securing the defection of an entire German garrison in a strategic pass in the Alps, and saving the lives of many of her male colleagues, led Churchill to call her his favourite spy, and Britain to honour her with the George Medal and OBE.”

The spy, who used several different aliases, was issued with a British passport in the name of Christine Granville early in the conflict.

Granville struggled after the war, returning to London in early 1949 and drifting through a string of short-lived menial jobs before becoming a stewardess on cruise ships.

She was provided with cheap accommodation at The Shelbourne Hotel - run by the Polish Relief Society - which was her home from 1949 until she was murdered by a stalker in 1952.

The English Heritage Blue Plaque has been unveiled at the former Shelbourne Hotel (now 1 Lexham Gardens), in Kensington, and is inscribed with both her original name and the one she adopted.

Granville was Britain’s longest-serving female special agent during the Second World War. Author Michael Morpurgo’s uncle, a British agent, was one of many people she saved. The writer said: “Her extraordinary courage was forged by a love of freedom, a hatred of the invader and a love of her beloved Poland.”

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