Brighton-born secret agents to be honoured

Posted On 31 May 2016 at 9:46 am

Plans to honour four Brighton-born secret agents were announced on what would have been the 100th birthday of one of them, Jacqueline Nearne.

The initiative, which includes unveiling blue plaques, was announced by the Sussex educational charity the Secret WW2 Learning Network.

The charity’s chief executive, Martyn Cox, who was also born in Brighton, said that Lieutenant Jacqueline Nearne was a little-known Second World War hero.

He described her as one of the bravest daughters of Brighton and Hove who was made an MBE at home and awarded the French Croix de Guerre for her wartime role.

She worked for the French section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) which was set up by wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill to support resistance in occupied countries.

Jacqueline Nearne

Jacqueline Nearne

The Secret WW2 Learning Network said that it was working with several partners and funders to develop a wide-ranging programme of public events in November.

These would accompany the unveilings of commemorative plaques in honour of

  • Lieutenant Jacqueline Nearne MBE, Croix de Guerre
  • Captain Michael Trotobas
  • Captain Edward Zeff MBE, Croix de Guerre
  • Captain Ronald Taylor

The first three served in the SOE in France while Captain Taylor served in Italy with its resisting partisans. Captain Trotobas was killed in action but the others survived their missions.

The Secret WW2 Learning Network has been working with the Brighton and Hove Commemorative Plaque Panel and said: “The blue plaques themselves will provide lasting recognition in Brighton and Hove of the courage, ingenuity and resilience of these four wartime secret agents while working ‘behind the lines’ in occupied Europe.

“November’s special events and initiatives, including talks, films, books, exhibits and special schools projects, will ensure that the local population and also visitors to the city will have every opportunity to learn not only about these agents’ individual exploits but also the wider contexts of why and how they served their country in this way.”

The Secret WW2 Learning Network first gained support and funding for this ambitious initiative via its existing relationship with the Resistance Studies Network at Sussex University.

This was followed by help from Visit Brighton and support from the Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission.

The Gerry Holdsworth Special Forces Trust is already a significant funder via Sussex University.

The additional partners, venues and supporters already coming on board include the Brighton Dome, Brighton Pavilion, the Old Ship Hotel, City Books and Uniform Press.

The exploits of the four agents are to be featured in a book to be published in time for the unveiling of the blue plaques.

Brighton’s Secret Agents is currently being completed by a trustee of the charity, Paul McCue, a military and special forces author.

His book will also give pen portraits of other SOE agents, an RAF pilot who flew them in and out of France and a back-room supply specialist who later became the inspiration for Q in the James Bond films.

They also had links with Brighton and Hove, mostly via their schooling, and several were killed or were executed during active service.

Chris Warne, director of the Resistance Studies Network at Sussex University, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for the Resistance Studies Network and the University of Sussex to bring the importance of resistance to a wider audience and to explore the significance of locally born individuals within the wider resistance story.”

  1. Dave Earl Reply

    I have a huge interest in the SOE and have read a number of books about the SOE and individual agents including Jacqueline and Eileen Nearne. I have a hobby whereby I write poetry and indeed have written two poems about “being an SOE agent!” I would be more than happy for the poems to be used at the unveiling ceremony or at another function to do with the unveiling. This is great nrews that Brighton is honouring these four very brave people in this way.

    • Martyn Cox Reply

      Dear Dave,

      That’s a fascinating approach, and many thanks for your interest and positive comments. By all means get directly in touch with us –


  2. Dave Earl Reply

    Hello Martyn. I am so sorry but I’ve only just looked here again and seen your reply to my comment above! Anyway, better late than never. I have sent both poems to you at the email address you have provided above. Hope you like them!


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