Giliana Balamaceda the First Female SOE agent sent to France

Giliana Balamaceda was born in Chile in 1910 and worked as an actress in Paris where she met and married Englishman Victor Garson, who later established the VIC escape line from France to Spain. At the time Victor Garson was a dealer in fine rugs and carpets and just prior to German troops entering France the couple escaped to England and both were eventually recruited by the Special Operations Executive (SOE).

In May 1941 Garson (nee Balamaceda) landed on a remote stretch of southern France at night by Felucca ( traditional wooden sailing boat used in the eastern Mediterranean) and spent the next three months recruiting patriotic Frenchmen and women willing to accept the dangerous task of working on the future VIC escape line. She also recruited elderly couples willing to use spare rooms in their home to accommodate escapers until they could be moved further down the line.

Garson also collected ration cards, identity papers, packets of popular brands of cigarettes, tobacco and other items to be forged in England and issued to agents going to France. After completing her mission she made her way back to England via Spain and Gibraltar.

Although Giliana Balamaceda is one of the least know SOE agents she was the first female agent to work in France and the VIC escape line would not have been possible without her major contribution to its formation and the samples she brought back from France allowed agents to carry authentic looking documents and props to support the cover identities.

Author: Alan Malcher

Military historian and defence commentator

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