War heroes honoured

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They looked like a rather old, slow-walking, but ordinary church congregation, writes James Cusick.

But yesterday, in a special service at Westminster Abbey, the extraordinary heroes and heroines who served half a century ago in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) honoured colleagues who died during the Second World War.

True bravery and sacrifice are supposed to seek little reward. That was reflected in a quiet service of remembrance as the Queen Mother unveiled a memorial plaque to the SOE. Only a close examination of its bronze emblem on the plaque - a parachutist hanging over a blazing sabotaged factory - gives a hint of the efforts of the 760 volunteers killed in operations during five years of sustained resistance fighting in Europe and the East.

Since the war ended in 1945, memorials marking individual bravery in the SOE have been erected worldwide. However, the plaque at Westminster is the first to commemorate all who gave their lives.