Wireless operator parachuted into France as a British Special Operations Executive (SOE) operative during World War II and later imprisoned in the Ravensbruck concentration camp. Yvonne Baseden was one of many women who parachuted into France to work with the French resistance. Baseden began her career in Britain with the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force), and because of her foreign language skills, she was recruited to the SOE. Baseden transmitted wireless information regarding the delivery and parachuting of supplies in the Dole region of France before being captured by the Gestapo.
Baseden began her service in the WAAF as an airwoman clerk at age eighteen. Stationed at Kenley in 1941, Baseden helped teach French pilots technical English. She was born and raised in Paris by her French mother and English father and was therefore ideal for work in wartime France. Baseden became the assistant section officer in Intelligence and later worked for the Directorate of Allied Air Co-operation and Foreign Liaison. She was accepted into the Special Operations Executive in 1943 and was trained as a wireless operator. Baseden, whose code name was Odette, was parachuted into France on March 19, 1944, near Toulouse and served as a wireless operator in a cheese factory in the Dole region. Baseden worked on a resistance circuit called Scholar along the Swiss border. In June 1944, after the Allied landings, Baseden and her associates faced increased danger. The Germans were becoming more alarmed about the resistance movement and the damage it was creating to German infrastructure. On June 26, 1944, the Gestapo discovered Baseden’s safe house, and she and her associates were arrested. Baseden was taken to Dijon, questioned, and held in solitary confinement until August 1944, at which point she was sent to Saarbruck concentration camp. Facing interrogation by the Gestapo, Baseden was believed to be a French helper, not an English spy, because of her fluent French and apparent ignorance of any important information; the Gestapo did not suspect that she was integral to the safe delivery of supplies to the French Resistance. Baseden was transferred to Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany; during her time at Ravensbruck, she contracted tuberculosis and because of this was to be sent to Belsen concentration camp. A friend intervened, however, and on April 28, 1945, Baseden and others were traded by the Swedish Red Cross for German prisoners and released from Ravens-bruck. Baseden returned to Britain and is an example of the significant roles of women in the war effort against the Axis powers during World War II.