This is the fourth and final instalment in our story about incredible French woman Violette Morris — athlete, racing driver and World War II spy, who cut off her breasts and donned men’s clothing. 

Some of the world’s top racing talent ended up as spies in the Special Operations Executive, or SOE, a secret British World War II organisation.

They managed to inflict a great deal of damage to the Nazi war machine in a series of daring undercover activities.

William Grover-Williams was parachuted into France in 1942, tasked with setting up resistance cells, arms supplies and a sabotage network.

According to SOE files, one very successful sabotage operation that he orchestrated targeted Citroen’s Paris factory. 

But in July, 1943, his radio operator was captured and the trail quickly led to the house of Robert Benoist, another racing driver, where Williams was arrested the following day. 

Benoist escaped and made it back to England, but was recaptured in 1944 on his return to France.

The unlucky Williams was subjected to torture at the Gestapo’s Paris headquarters. 

He was then transferred to Sachsenhausen in Germany where, official records show, he was shot on March 18, 1945. 

Benoist had many times been dropped by parachute behind German lines and was able to carry out major disruption.

He was caught, but made a daring escape and was able to get back to Britain.

Duty called again however and he took up another mission to France, undertaking further SOE work in the Nantes area. 

They were involved in the D-Day diversions near Nantes in 1944 before their network was trapped in a German raid. 

Benoist was arrested in Paris and later executed at Buchenwald on Sept 9, 1944, while another driver Jean-Pierre Wimille avoided capture at Sermaise by hiding in a stream. 

 

Of the three pre-war grand prix drivers though, he was the only one to survive the war as a SOE secret agent.

The first post-war motor racing event was held in Paris’s Bois de Boulogne on September 9, 1945.

Held in honour of Benoist, Wimille fittingly won the Coupe des Prisonniers from the back of the grid after having arrived too late to qualify.

He emerged as the fastest and most respected driver of the 1940s. 

Having driven a private Alfa Romeo 308 during 1946, he joined the all-conquering works team in 1947.

Victories in the Swiss and Belgian GPs established the Frenchman as Alfa Romeo’s natural team leader.

He also raced a Simca-Gordini in other events and beat local hero Juan Manuel Fangio in the 1948 Rosario GP. 

But he too came short.

The charismatic Wimille returned to Argentina at the start of 1949 for the annual Temporada. 

Practising in Buenos Aires’ Palermo Park, he lost control of his Simca-Gordini and crashed into a tree.

Suffering from head and chest injuries, Wimille lost consciousness in the ambulance and died before reaching hospital.

He was posthumously awarded the Légion d’Honneur and a monument to Wimille stands at the Porte de Dauphine in Paris.

And what of Violette Morris, the sports star-turned-racing driver-turned spy?

Her last job was to eliminate the SOE people.

Violette had no idea her name was on the lips of plenty of higher-ups in London who were launching a commando operation against her.

In 1944 she was killed by the Maquis, rural French resistance fighters, who ambushed her on a country road while she was on a drive with friends.

Two children were said to have been among those in the car, but all occupants were wiped out by machine gun fire. 

No one claimed Violette’s bullet-ridden body, so she, despite her 20 national titles, 50 medals, 200 football matches and three Bal d’Ors, was turfed into a mass grave.

While hell might have no fury like a woman scorned, the same can be said for a nation betrayed.

CHECKOUT: Violette accused of collaborating with Nazis

CHECKOUT: Violette cut off breasts and donned pants

Violette met a violent bloody end

Buys

Bill Buys, probably Australia’s longest-serving motoring writer, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Athough motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor and later chief reporter of the famed Rand Daily Mail. He’s twice been shot at, attacked by a rhinoceros and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands Prix to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars. He is the father of Targa star Robert Buys, who often adds his expertise to Bill’s reviews.
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