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Welbeing pays tribute to female spy who dressed as a nun to fool Nazis

​The incredible story of a former spy from World War Two. At Welbeing we often meet customers with amazing lives and great stories to tell. Many of our customers are older people who have lived long and interesting lives and it is fascinating to hear what they have to say. Every so often one truly remarkable story comes along and this is one of those!

Margaret Spencer, who was a Welbeing customer and a long-time resident of Westham, near Eastbourne, was a former spy who parachuted into Nazi occupied Europe behind enemy lines during World War Two dressed as a nun. Margaret died in June this year aged 94.


Just before her death Margaret Spencer wrote of her days as a Second World War spy, being shot in the back by a German sniper and caught by the Gestapo.

She had been silent for 50 years after signing the Official Secrets Act – and her account was a shock to all but her closest friends and family in her village near Eastbourne, East Sussex.

She finally revealed her life story in memoirs which her family handed to her local newspaper, the Eastbourne Herald, after her death last month.

Mrs Spencer said she had been recruited at the start of the war, given a Colt 45 and instructed to round up German spies and Communists along the south coast – all while working as a nurse.

‘During all these activities my husband was in complete ignorance,’ she wrote. ‘He just thought I was busy at the hospital. ‘Secrecy meant just that, not even your nearest and dearest knew about your double life.’

Margaret Spencer revealed how during one of her daring missions she parachuted behind enemy lines dressed as a nun. In another she was shot in the back by the feared secret police, the Gestapo

After the war she continued working in the intelligence services, including a mission to Russia, before leaving to work as a community nurse and midwife.

All the while, she said, she still had the bullet from a German sniper lodged near her spine.But she was only allowed to reveal her secrets in 1995 – and kept her gun until 1977.

Mrs Spencer lived in Eastbourne with her husband Len before moving to the nearby village of Westham, where she was choirmaster at St Mary’s Church.

Her daughter Diana Milne, 68, who also lives in Eastbourne, said her mother had been involved in several parachute drops – but remained completely humble. ‘She was far more proud of what she did in the village than what she did during the war,’ she said. Her daughter added: ‘The parachuting was normal for her and I know the details of the mission when she dressed as a nun, but she would have wanted that kept private.’She was a wonderful woman, my mum. I’m very proud of her.’

Steve Smith, Welbeing CEO said “What a truly remarkable lady Margaret was. To hear her story really brings home to me that we should never forget that older people in our society were young once and had careers and responsibilities and in some cases amazing secrets”

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