I Was a Spy!: The Classic Account of Behind-the-Lines Espionage in the First World War [McKenna]
With her medical studies cut short by the 1914 German invasion, her house burned down and her father arrested for suspected ‘sharpshooting’, it was perhaps unsurprising that the multi-lingual Marthe Mckenna (née Cnockaert, codename ‘Laura’) was recruited by British Intelligence. At the time she worked as a nurse tending the wounds of occupying soldiers, and as a waitress in her parents’ café in the Belgian border town of Roulers.
I Was a Spy! is McKenna’s vivid narrative of these breath-taking adventures as she, aided by a gallant band of loyal locals, goes undercover to sabotage enemy phone lines, report suspicious activity or train movements, and even instigate an aerial attack on a planned visit by the Kaiser.
This thrilling account goes on to explain how, in 1916, the young nurse was caught by the Germans placing dynamite in a disused sewer tunnel underneath an ammunition dump. She was sentenced to the firing squad and only survived due to the Iron Cross honour received as a result of her earlier medical service . Mckenna was later mentioned by Douglas Haig in British Despatches and was awarded the French and Belgian Orders of the Legion of Honour for her espionage work.