SSAFA CEO praises ‘Agent Zo’ ahead of Chalke History Festival

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05 June 2024

The Chalke History Festival, founded in 2011 and held in the Chalke Valley (Wiltshire), has arguably become the UK's leading history festival, attracting hundreds of thousands of history buffs over the years, and more than 18,000 schoolchildren since its launch.

The 2024 festival, just a few weeks after commemorations to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day, will feature much to do with that day in June 1944 and the lead up to the anniversary in 2025 of the end of World War Two.

Among others attending and speaking will be historian and festival co-founder James Holland.

James – author of, among many titles, Brothers in Arms: One Legendary Tank Regiment's Bloody War from D-Day to VE-Day – is no stranger to SSAFA. In October 2023, he, along with Ghosts star Ben Willbond (also taking part in the festival), fellow historian Professor Saul David (also at the festival), and Army officer turned teacher Rob Gallimore set off on a fundraising journey for SSAFA in modern incarnations of the WWII “Klepper” canoes.

Of the festival, James says: “Chalke History Festival has all the elements of a quintessential English summer festival: vibrant tents, delicious food and drink, camping beneath the stars and an enchanting atmosphere.

“It’s the perfect destination for those who are looking for something a little bit different, and who want to learn something new from the very best speakers like Clare Mulley, thought leaders and experts in their field. With a huge range of activities on offer, visitors are assured a fantastic historical experience.

Clare Mulley, the acclaimed historian and author, will be discussing her latest work – Agent Zo: The Untold Story of Fearless WW2 Resistance Fighter Elżbieta Zawacka – at the festival, and will be introduced by Lieutenant General Sir Andrew Gregory, the CEO of SSAFA.

Sir Andrew said: “I’ll be delighted to introduce Clare as she discusses her book and more importantly, Elżbieta Zawacka or ‘Agent Zo’ at the Chalke History Festival.

The operations carried out by SOE agents, partisans and members of local resistance units were dangerous, clever, and often brutal, with those caught suffering equally – or more – brutal fates than their targets.

There was no favouritism, no leniency applied to women, and the risks they took and the torture and deaths they could suffer if caught – and many were – would be horrific.

Clare’s book about Elżbieta, her training, role in the Polish Uprising, her post-war imprisonment by the Soviets makes it essential reading for anyone interested in WWII and those who fought for an Allied victory.”

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