SOE Codemaster Leo Mark’s poem for Violette Szabo

by glenmore on July 26, 2010

In my lecture ‘Spies in High Heels’,  I quote the following poem issued to Violette Szabo by Leo Marks as a code to encrypt messages.

Violette Bushell Szabo (26 June, 1921 – c. 5 February, 1945) was recruited by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). While serving for them Violette went into France twice. On the second trip she was captured during a shoot-out after she killed several German soldiers.

In spite of torture and interrogation she gave nothing away, and was sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp where she was eventually executed.

She was posthumously awarded the George Cross and the Croix de Guerre in 1946.

Leo Marks, an English cryptographer, used poems to encrypt messages. It was found that famous poems were insecure because enemy cryptographers were able to locate the original from published sources and thus break the code. Marks countered this by using his own written creations. The Life That I Have was an original poem composed on Christmas Eve 1943 and was originally written by Marks in memory of his girlfriend Ruth, who had just died in a plane crash in Canada. On 24 March 1944, the poem was issued by Marks to Violette Szabo.

The life that I haveViolette Szabo monument.
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours

The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours

A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause

For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours
And yours

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