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  • Writer's pictureWendy Percival

#WW2 Secrets of the Scilly Isles

This blog has fallen silent recently as I've been away holidaying on Tresco, one of the islands of the beautiful Isles of Scilly.

I already knew from my research for the third Esme Quentin mystery, The Malice of Angels, that during World War Two there had been many clandestine missions from Tresco to occupied France by boat. So I was delighted to come across a plaque commemorating the island's wartime role while we were out and about exploring the island.

When in British waters, the boats used were painted grey to blend in with the rest of the naval flotilla but for their secret missions to France they would be repainted in bright colours to resemble a Breton fishing vessel.

One mission I recall reading about in Laura Quigley's fascinating book South West Secret Agents, was the rescue of a French intelligence officer, code-named Rémy, and his family, who were in danger of being captured by the Germans. At the rendezvous with the small trawler tasked with transporting the family out of France, the crew of the disguised fishing vessel looked down at the tiny craft to see only three French fishermen. They were amazed when from a number of secret hiding places there emerged Rémy's wife, 3 small children, another woman and a man, as well as Rémy himself carrying a baby!

My favourite part of the story is during their journey back to Tresco, when they came under the scrutiny of an armed German patrol boat. As the captain peered at them through his binoculars, the crew realised that they were alongside a row of fishing nets left in the water by French fisherman. They immediately began to haul in the nets, landing a catch of spider crabs on deck. Obviously this convinced the Germans that they were what they appeared to be and the patrol boat continued on its way. The added bonus to their lucky escape was to feast on the delicious crab!


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