Byck, Muriel

(19 18-1944)

Radio operator who parachuted into France with Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) during World War II. Muriel Byck is representative of the many women who were integral to the fight against the Nazis in France during World War II. Byck joined the SOE through the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in Britain, where, like many other women, her ability to speak fluent French allowed her to be of great use to the French Resistance. Byck translated and sent messages to London regarding recruits to the resistance and also worked as a courier. She died in 1944 in France of meningitis.

Byck was born in the London borough of Eal-ing on June 4, 1918, of French Jewish parents who were British citizens; she also spoke Russian and spent time in Germany. She joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in December 1942, working with the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry and the records office. In July 1943, Byck was recruited by the SOE because of her grasp of the French language and was parachuted into France in April 1944 under the code names "Michele" and "Violette." Byck worked as a radio operator in the Resistance circuit known as "Ventriloquist" under Philippe de Vomecourt in the Loire and Cher area. She translated messages into ciphers and tapped them into Morse code; she also received messages from London and deciphered them. Byck trained local wireless operator recruits and transferred recruiting information to London. She also served as a courier when necessary, delivering or receiving messages for the Resistance. Byck moved daily to and from four wireless receivers to avoid discovery by the Gestapo. She narrowly escaped capture when a German spy discovered her at work in her safe house in April 1944, but Byck was quickly transferred to a new location under the guise of recuperating from an illness. In early May, London and the Resistance circuit bombed the German ammunition supply in Michenon, and the explosions physically and psychologically traumatized Byck. She was transferred to numerous safe houses, but she never recovered; Byck contracted meningitis as a child and hid this fact from the SOE, but she contracted the disease again while in France and was taken to the hospital. The hospital staff could have informed the Gestapo, but the nuns at the hospital where she was taken did not do so. Byck died of meningitis on May 23, 1944. She was originally buried under a false name, and Vomecourt was almost arrested by the Gestapo at her funeral. Byck’s grave was later moved to the War Cemetery at Pornic for British lost in the war effort. Like other female participants in the war effort, Byck is honored in several war memorials in England and is commemorated in the town of Romorantin, France, where she was originally buried.

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