War hero’s funeral: Spy Eileen Nearne laid to rest


This is the moment dozens of dignitaries and war veterans mourned reclusive Second World War spy Eileen Nearne MBE who died alone with no-one to to pay for her funeral.

Hundred lined the streets to pay their last respects to Eileen who operated as an undercover agent called ‘Rose’ during WW2 and was caught and tortured by the Nazis three times.

On September 2 this year Eileen was found dead in her small flat aged 89 and officials were unable to find any relatives to pay for the funeral.

She was set to be buried by the council but following a public outcry a funeral director has offered to give her a send off befitting a war hero.

Military charities also donated cash towards the funeral service held for Eileen at the Help of Christians and St Denis Roman Catholic Church in Torquay, Devon.

Today she was given a funeral with full military honours and hundreds of mourners packed in to witness the service.

Her niece Odile  Nearne gave an emotional tribute to Eileen who she described as “very modest” about her incredible story.

She said: “She sacrificed her private life for the home land. She had a very strong character and was determined in her patriotic views.

“It is thanks to people like her that we can live peacefully today. She never wanted to speak about what she had done during the war, in fact, she did not want to be famous.

“People like her just want to forget and not relive the suffering. Bless her soul. We all loved you. May you rest in peace.

“My aunt was a lovely person and extremely reserved because of what she had been through during the war.

“She did many good deeds for animals in distress and those in need. She was a devout Roman Catholic. Her faith saved her when she was tortured in concentration camps.

“She was always very modest and I admired her for that. She was very much loved. I am very proud to be her niece.”

Adrian Stone, chairman of the Special Forces Club, gave a eulogy in which he paid tribute to Eileen as “brave and independent”.

He added: “Her efficiency and courage was shown through her commitment to her story despite going through the German equivalent of water torture. She still stuck to her guns”

Her coffin arrived at the church draped with the Union Jack flag and the hearse was flanked by 22 standard bearers from the British Legion.

Among those attending the service were senior representatives of the armed forces and local dignitaries including the chairman of Torbay Council Matthew Phillips.

Also in attendance was the French Consulate Edouard Braine who paid tribute to Eileen for her brave service.

He said: “I owe her for the freedom of our country. All my compatriots feel the same.

“It is important for us to show a message of gratitude for brave people like her who gave us our freedom.”

At the end of the service, the last post was played by a French bugler and her coffin was carried from the church to a round of applause from those gathered outside.

After Eileen was found dead her papers showed that during WW2 she was based with the UK’s Special Operations Executive and served in occupied France.

The Gestapo tried to break her with a variety of methods including beating and holding her head in a bath of freezing cold water.

They never managed to break her and each time she was able to convince her captors she was a ”French shop girl” who knew nothing of the war.

The torture left her with a variety of medicals problems and in 1946 she was declared 100 percent disabled as a result of “exhaustion neurosis” by a secret pensions tribunals trial.

A psychiatric report later found she was suffering headaches, depression, sleeplessness, palpitations and a sense of unreality.

Eileen died after suffering a heart attack at her flat in Torquay. Her ashes will be scattered at sea.

Speaking about the torture she suffered, Eileen once said: ”Will power. That’s the most important. You should not let yourself go.

”It seemed that the end would never come, but I have always believed in destiny and I had a hope. If you are a person who is drowning, you put all your efforts into trying to swim.”


  1. Let us never forget the sacrifices some of our older generation made so we could live our lives in freedom today. God rest you Eileen, a true hero.

  2. Let us never forget the sacrifices some of our older generation made so we could live our lives in freedom today. God rest you Eileen, a true hero.

  3. I sat in tears when I read about this lady Eileen was certainly a survivor she gave her youth abd suffered for it. She in truth gave her whole life since her years after the war were such a torture. perhaps we should learn that war is never the answer. Rest in peace Eileen.

    Chris Roche born 1946

  4. Dear All,

    A vote of thanks should go to all who helped and supported Eileen’s funeral.

    Well done everyone.

    We will honour Eileen in the Allied Special Forces Grove at the National Memorial Arboretum.


    Mike Colton
    Allied Special Forces Association

  5. My father and aunts (my father’s sisters) were Jacqueline’s and Didi’s close friends. Sadly my aunts Jeanne and Madeleine (see Susan Ottaway’s book page 11) passed away a few years ago, Marie (98) is quite tired now but she also had so many interesting stories to tell. My father Henri (96) still remembers many episodes with Francis and Jacqueline Nearne (Didi and Boubou were younger) and he would be so happy to tell them to Odile. We have some pre-war photo albums too with pics of Jacueline, Francis and their parents. Could anyone help us get in touch with Odile Nearne?


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