Secret agent Margaret’s wartime efforts revealed

Margaret Spencer, who secretly served in the SOE in the Second World War SUS-140716-163557001
Margaret Spencer, who secretly served in the SOE in the Second World War SUS-140716-163557001

A 94-year-old community stalwart in Westham who died last month was an elite member of the Secret Intelligence Services in the Second World War who saved countless lives.

Margaret Spencer was disguised as a nun and parachuted into the continent during the conflict to bring agents home, was shot in the back by a German sniper and also thanked by the King and Queen for looking after Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret as they mingled with crowds outside Buckingham Palace at the end of the Second World War in 1945.

Margaret passed away on June 23 and her funeral was held on Saturday at St Mary’s Church where she was a regular worshipper and choirmaster for 22 years.

Her funeral at the weekend saw choirs from both St Mary’s and St Nicholas’ lead a procession through the village before the funeral. She is now buried in the cemetery of St Mary’s.

She spent her later life working as a matron with her late husband Len at Willoughby Court in Eastbourne. She also ran the Women’s Institute and was involved with the Westham and Pevensey Historical Society, music groups and other organisations.

Margaret was recruited to the SIS, commonly known as MI6, as a 20-year-old by a family member, given a warrant and a Colt 45 and worked as a secret agent until 1977 when she retired from active service and surrendered her gun.

She was absolved from the Official Secrets Act in 1995 and then told her family of her fascinating double life.

Margaret’s daughter Diana, who lives in Quebec Close, said she was immensely proud of her mother, who lived in the High Street.

Although Margaret trained as a nurse and lived and worked in Eastbourne, her first job within the SIS was to track down Communists who were ready to assist the Germans should they invade.

In her memoirs she writes, “It was the loneliest job in the world. You can talk to no one and I mean no one. Secrecy meant just that, not even your nearest and dearest. There were no medals or thanks for the men and women of the shadows but what we did was vital to our country, so we did our duty.

“In 1977 I surrendered my gun and retired from service and from work. In 1995 I was informed that I was now absolved from the Secrecy Act and the rest of my life was my own. I was 75.”

The Herald will be publishing Margaret’s memoirs over the next few weeks in Looking Back. See page 47.