‘Eleanor Rigby’ spy and war hero to get proper burial


A real life ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and former Second World War hero will be given a proper burial after big-hearted Brits dug deep to pay for the service she deserves.

Brave Eileen Nearne, MBE, was discovered dead in her flat aged 89 and officials have been unable to trace any family.

Personal documents later revealed Eileen was a highly decorated undercover agent who escaped the Nazis three times.

She was due to be cremated in a cheap funeral service paid for by the local council with the costs claimed back from her estate.

But following a public outcry a funeral director has offered to fund a service with the ”dignity and respect she deserves”.

Local dignitaries and the Royal British Legion will also attend and the Foreign Office may also send a representative.

The original funeral was due to be held on September 21 but a new date will be now be found.

A spokesman for Torbay Council said they had received offers from war veterans, historians and members of the public to pay for a funeral.

He said: ”Torbay Council has been contacted by various organisations including the Torbay District and Funeral Service and Westerleigh Group which have offered to fund the funeral arrangements of Eileen Nearne.

”We are currently liaising with the Royal British Legion regarding a protocol for the service so Ms Nearne can be laid to rest with the dignity and respect she deserves. New funeral arrangements be publicised in due course.”

John Pentreath, of the Royal British Legion, said: ”We will certainly be there. We will do her as proud.

”She sounds like a hugely remarkable lady and we are sorry she kept such a low profile, and that we only discovered the details after her death.”

Neighbours, of Eileen, in Torquay, Devon, have also revealed that she never talked about the war – despite being captured and tortured by the Gestapo.

One former neighbour, posting a tribute on a website, said she only ever talked about – her cat.

She wrote: ”I lived at the same block of flats as this lady for two years. She was always sat outside on the bench reading the papers with her ginger cat.

”I sometimes sat and chatted with her. She never talked about herself, only about her cat who she took in after someone abandoned him.

”What a brave lady. Rest in peace Eileen.”

Other residents in Torquay have also paid their respects and demanded Eileen is given a proper send off.

One said: ”I really do think this lady should be given a funeral fit for a hero. Torbay Council and the British Legion should get their heads together and make us proud.

”Obviously, she does seem to have been forgotten about in life but in death she should definitely be well remembered. A plaque to her honour also and a service for her bravery should be considered.”

Another added: ”Please if a lesson has to be learned from this – next time you see that old person walking down the street just remember they have a history, a story to tell and sometimes it is brilliant like this.
Not just an old person a human being who lived a life just like you.

”Considering what this outstanding lady did for this country and France then I think a burial with military honours would not be too much to ask. Come on Torbay Council, a Union flag on the coffin, a British Legion standard Bearer and the last post won’t cost a fortune.”

Eileen was based with the UK’s Special Operations Executive and served in occupied France as a radio operator under the codename ‘Rose’.

In 1944 she was sent to an aircraft base in France to work as a wireless operator with the cover name Mademoiselle du Tort.

Eileen – who spoke fluent French – was later caught using her radio set and taken into custody by the Gestapo who tortured her for information.

But despite the abuse they were unable to break her and she convinced them she was just a ‘little shop girl’ who knew nothing of undercover war operations.

She was released but captured again by the Germans but managed to escape a labour camp with two fellow prisoners.

They were later arrested by the SS but were set free after Eileen again used her language skills to convince the captors they were innocent.

She was awarded the MBE for her services during the war but became a recluse and was found dead of a heart attack on September 2.



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