Venue: Walled Garden.

Rick Stroud is an Emmy-winning and BAFTA-nominated writer and television director who has directed such actors as Pierce Brosnan, John Hurt, Ian Holme, Celia Imrie and Joanna Lumley. Earlier in his career he was the associate producer of Brideshead Revisited.

He is now best know as the author of Second World War spy histories and his latest book is Lonely Courage: The true story of the SOE heroines who fought to free Nazi-occupied France.

The Special Operations Executive (SOE) set up by Churchill in 1941 sought to help the French Resistance by recruiting and organising guerrilla fighters; supplying and training them; and then disrupting the Germans by any means necessary. They helped transform what had at first been small, disorganised and disparate groups into an organisation of around 400,000 French citizens – nearly 2 per cent of the population – by the time of the liberation in 1944.

Lonely Courage brings to life the untold stories of the 39 female SOE agents recruited from all walks of life, ranging from a London shop assistant to a Polish aristocrat. Trained alongside their male counterparts, they learned how to disappear into the background, how to operate a radio transmitter and how to kill a man with their bare hands. Dropped behind enemy lines by parachute or light aircraft, some of the women went on to lead thousands of Resistance fighters; others were arrested, brutally interrogated and sent to concentration camps where they endured torment and death.