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15 October 2014
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Mary O'Shaughnessy's Story: Heroine of World War Twoicon for Recommended story

by deniso

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Mary O'Shaughnessy
Location of story: 
France / Germany
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
26 November 2003

I would like to tell the story of my Aunt Mary, who I consider to be one of the many unsung heroines of World War Two.

Prior to the commencement of the hostilities in Europe she was leading a happy life working as a Governess in France. In 1940 she was in Angies with her employer's family and was watching the events in Belgium with great interest.

When the disasterous events occurred in France and the allies where in retreat of the German Armies she assisted as much as she could by directing any lost groups to the safety of Southern France via Marseilles.

After the allied armies had left France and the country was under German Occupation she proved to be the means of a return to the UK for many an airman who had been shot down over France.
For months she cared for one particular airman whose injuries prevented him from travelling, until he was able to escape via the French Underground Movement.

In time the work she was carrying out came to the attention of the Gestapo and it was not long before she was on their 'wanted list'. She was in Paris when a search of her apartment was carried out and she was informed of this by friends in the undrground movement. She then decided it was time to leave France and to return to the UK via Spain and all the necassary arrangements were made.

Unfortunately, before these arrangements could be implimented she was betrayed to the Gestapo by a so called 'friend',arrested and taken to Mont Luc at Lyon where she suffered her first experiences at the hands of the Germans.She was interigated by her captors for ten days and when no information could be got out of her she was placed in a cattle truck with several hundred other prisoners and commenced a five day journey to Ravensbruik Concentration Camp in Germany.

Whilst incarcerated in this Camp she both witnessed and suffered untold cruelties by the guards and on one occasion was beaten to the extent that she suffered a broken jaw, broken nose and lost eight teeth. Food became more scarce and the cruelties harsher and then the Germans began to use the Gas Chambers.

Eventually the allied bombing of Berlin and other towns in Northern Germany became the beginning of the end for the Germans, and Mary was eventually liberated by a Swedish Mission and returned to England via Sweden.

After the War had ended she appeared as a witness at the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials, and later returned to her work as a governess, but this time she went to work in Kenya, where she survived through the Mau Mau uprisings (but that is another story).

She passed away on 11 September 1973, during a visit to the UK from Kenya to see an old friend from her days in Ravensbruik.

After the war Mary was made an Honourary Member of the Royal Air Force Escaping Society in recognition for the work she had carried out.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Your Aunt Mary

Posted on: 26 November 2003 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper


Is there any reason for not providing your Aunt Mary's full name? Such a brave lady deserves to be remembered.



Message 2 - Your Aunt Mary

Posted on: 30 November 2003 by deniso

There is no reason why I did not give my Aunt Mary's full name, but since you have shown some interest in her escapades during that time in her life, I can tell you that her name was Miss Mary O'Shaughnessy and she came from the small town of Leigh in Lancashire and was one of an ordinary working class family of three daughters and two sons, whose Mother and Father where both Irish Immigrants.



Message 3 - Your Aunt Mary

Posted on: 01 December 2003 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Denis

Thank you for your reply. I am sure many others will also show interest in your fine contribution.


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