Nataliia Zalietok

Ph.D (History),Senior lecturer

V. I. Vernadsky Taurida National University, Kyiv, Ukraine

ORCID logo0000-0002-5319-3876


Abstarct. The article compares the peculiarities of the activities and life of British and Soviet women-spies during WWIIto deepen the available information about their participation in the war and find out the common and different in the policies of totalitarian and democratic regimes concerning it.

The author states that during WWII, Great Britain and the USSR recruited women into the intelligence service. Both countries taught them the necessary military skills, including the handling of various weapons. Their operational tasks in the service included the performance of combat roles too.Nevertheless, the British authorities, in contrast to the Soviet ones, denied the fact that women used lethal weapons. There was an official taboo on this in the country. Therefore, we must state the insincerity of the British government on this issue. Analyzing the level of training of agents, we see that the British government made more efforts and spent more time on it.There may be several reasons of it, but among the main ones we see the fact that the country was in a less difficult situation during WWII. After all, it managed to avoid invasion on it territories, and its military contingent was less involved in theaters of operations than the Soviet. Hence the smaller number of combat losses that needed to be urgently replaced by new military personnel.For example, the British women had the opportunity to practice skydiving during training, in contrast to the Soviet female spies – according to the testimonies of some of them, the jump during the combat mission was the first in their lives. There were also cases when Soviet intelligence groups trained only for a few weeks before the mission. In Great Britain, on ​​the other hand, there was a multi–level school for the training of agents. The life of spies on the service differed, depending on the peculiarities of their missions, their venues and the ability to take care of themselves during their completion.

Keywords: women, Intelligence, Great Britain, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), World War II

Submitted: 11.04.2021

Download full article


  1. Zhinky–rozvidnyci u Velykij Vitchyznyanij vijni. (n.d.). Holovne upravlinnya rozvidky Ministerstva oborony Ukrayiny.Retrieved from: [in Ukrainian].
  2. Svyrskyj, H. (Ed). (1990). Mat” y machexa. Rasskazы yzhnannыx rodynoj pysatelej. Toronto: Эrudyt [in Russian].
  3. Murmanceva, V. O. (1974). Sovetskye zhenshhynы v Velykoj Otechestvennoj vojne. Moskva: Yzdatel”stvo «Mыsl”» [in Russian].
  4. Nesterenko, A. A. (2018). Vospmynanyya. YaPOMNYu. Retrieved from: [in Russian].
  5. Pavlov, V. (2003). Zhenskoe lyco razvedky. Moskva: Olma–Pres [in Russian].
  6. Xaryna (Yvannykova), Y. M. (2013). Vospomynanyya. YaPOMNYu. Retrieved from: [in Russian].
  7. Yaruxyn, Yu. (2012). Otvazhnaya radystka (Э. S. Kuruzova). Kyev: Fond veteranov voennoj razvedky [in Russian].
  8. Connolly, M. (2004). We can take it! Britain and the memory of the Second World War. Harlow: Pearson Longman.
  9. Cruickshank, C. G. (1983). O. E. in the Far East. Oxford: Oxford Univiversity Press.
  10. FitzSimons, P. (2002). Nancy Wake: The Inspiring Story of One of the War’s Greatest Heroines. New York: HarperCollins.
  11. George Medal: Ensign N. G. A. Wake, First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (Special Operations Executive). (n.d.). Australian War Memorial. Retrieved from:
  12. Goldstein, R. (2004). Two Jewish Heroines of the SOE Part 1. WW2 People`s War.Retrieved from:
  13. Mackenzie, W. (2000). The Secret History of SOE: Special Operations Executive, 1940–1945. London: St Ermin’s Press.
  14. Pattinson, J. (2008). ‘Turning a Pretty Girl into a Killer’: Women, Violence and Clandestine Operations during the Second World War. В Gender and Interpersonal Violence Language, Action and Representation (pp. 11–28). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  15. Rigden, D. (2004). Introduction. В How to Be a Spy: The World War II SOE Training Manual (pp. 1–30). Dundurn: Dundurn Press.
  16. Vigurs, E. K. (2011). The women agents of the Special Operations Executive F section: wartime realities and post war representations.
  17. Wake, N. (1997). The Autobiography of the Woman the Gestapo Called the White Mouse. Sydney: Pan Macmillan Australia.