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The Nurse Who Became a Spy (Hardback)

Madge Addy’s War Against Fascism

Military > Biographies P&S History WWII > Espionage & the SOE Women of History

By Chris Hall
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 232
Illustrations: 30 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526779588
Published: 23rd July 2021



In the press!

As featured in the Daily Mail Online: 'A fascinating new book.' 

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The life story of Madge Addy, a working-class Manchester woman who volunteered to fight Fascism and Nazism in two major wars, is a truly remarkable one. Madge left her job and her husband to serve in the Spanish Civil War as a nurse with the Republican medical services. In Spain she was wounded in a bombing raid, fell in love with another foreign volunteer who became her second husband, was made a Prisoner of War and was the last British nurse to leave Spain, witnessing the horrors of Franco’s Fascist regime before she left. She was caught up in the ‘Fall of France’ and lived in Marseille with her Norwegian husband. From 1940 to 1944 Madge was first an amateur resister and later a full-time secret agent, working with the likes of Ian Garrow, Pat O’Leary and Guido Zembsch-Schreve. She also acted as a courier, flying to Lisbon to deliver and receive secret messages from British intelligence. She also became romantically involved with a Danish secret agent and married him after the war. Madge’s wartime achievements were recognised by the British with the award of an OBE and by the French with the award of the Croix de Guerre.

Chris Hall brings Madge’s story to life using archive material and photographs from Britain, France, Spain and Norway. Madge’s Spanish Civil War experiences are vividly described in a mass of letters she wrote requesting medical aid and describing the harrowing conditions at her wartime hospital. Her activities in the Second World War show a woman with ‘nerves of steel’ and a bravery at times bordering on recklessness. As she herself said, ‘I believe in taking the war into the enemy camp’.

When I read the synopsis of this book, I remember wondering how much could happen to one woman. Then when you read Madge’s story you realize she did and so much more!! As a reader, I was constantly in amazement to her strength and gumption! This book was very well researched and written. A great addition to my history reads.

NetGalley, Jennifer DiCenzo

Featured in

International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As more people discover those who fought behind the scenes, I am here to learn about those quiet heroes that helped make the world a better and safer place.
Madge Addy was a woman who lived many lives--nurse, currier, spy, wife--sometimes simultaneously. She's a woman many probably never heard of and yet, she was willing to take the fight straight into the Reich's belly.
With photos of her and letters she wrote requesting medical aid for those in hiding as well as soldiers, Addy took huge risks, but her efforts, helped bring the monsters of WWII to its knees.
Chris Hall's great research, photos, and presentation kept me wondering how many more we've yet to hear about and had me hoping Hall would write about more of the unsung heroes that changed the course of the war and the world.

NetGalley, Patricia Fischer

"Chris Hall is to be commended for bringing Madge Addy’s story to a wider audience and this well produced book is a fitting testament."

Chris Chambers - Manchester Metropolitan University

The author has done a tremendous amount of work researching her life and discovering documents on Madge’s life covering her work, activities and her personnel life. What an exciting life it was indeed.

Dr Stuart C Blank, Military Archive Research

Author Chris Hall brings to life the remarkable story of a young woman determined to fight against fascism at any cost, including her own life. Remarkable.

Books Monthly

5/5 stars
Great Book. Nice bit of local and family history that would otherwise might have been lost. Good succinct backgrounds to world events accompany and emphasise the importance of the life and work of this incredible person.
Great read not just of Manchester folk but everyone who appreciates the hidden courage and talents we all have, but are so often subsumed by the world of work.
I strongly recommend this book.

Peter Cookson, 14 September 2021

One tends to consider World War ll in isolation, to forget or not know the events that led to it. In telling his story of nurse Madge Addy, Chris Hall refers to the volatile years between World 1 and World War ll. For instance, the Japanese invasion of Manchuria would eventually lead to the loss of Singapore in 1942. In 1935 Italy invades Abyssinia. In 1936 Germany increases its army to 500,000 men and reoccupies the Rhineland bordering France, invades Austria, and occupies parts of Czechoslovakia: before even thinking of Poland with its defence treaty with Britain.
It's against this toxic background, with three nations rearming, that Spain in 1937 is wracked with civil war. and an ideal place to trial new weapons and air power. In Britian, volunteers join the British brigade to fight in Spain,
there are fund-raising events in Britian for food shipments, ambulances, medical supplies, and medical staff. Madge Addy, a nurse joined a medical team of doctors, nurses with the Republican medical service. She falls in love, is married, and wounded in a bombing raid. Captured and made a prisoner of war. Released and is the last nurse to leave Spain.
Within weeks of the Spain civil war ending, Germany invades Poland on 1st September 1939. Britain with a defence treaty with Poland declares with Germany on 3rd September. Recruited by Operations Executive (SOE), Madge Addy is in Spain assisting British soldiers evading capture and crashed air force crew avoiding capture, fleeing France to reach Gibraltar, with Pat O'Leary's ferry service. Madge Addy full-time secret agent was awarded an OBE and the Croix de Guerre by the French. A well-researched book with photographs describing events which were overshadowed by the horrors of war which followed.

Richard Gough - Historian, writer, author of the Escape from Singapore, The jungle was Red, Outpost of the Empire, SOE Singapore 1941-42. Waiting publication Tony Poe, CIA Paramilitary in SE Asia.

As featured on chorltonhistory.blogspot.com: 'Chris Hall’s book The Nurse who Became a Spy, tells her remarkable story...' full article here

Andrew Simpson, chorltonhistory.blogspot.com

'Finding out about Madge was like an Agatha Christie novel. She left no documents, had no children and any ephemera about her has been lost.' - Author in interview with Amanda Kendal

U Magazine

As reviewed by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM. Listen here.

Hannah's Bookshelf, North Manchester FM

'This book provides an engaging account of the remarkable Madge Addy who served as a nurse with the Republican medical services. She later became a full time spy fighting Fascism and was awarded both the OBE and the French Croix de Guerre. So begins an incredible and exciting life story which deserves to be written.' Read full review here

Brian Rubin, The Orwell Society

Very interesting read about not only the resistance activities of WW2, but also the Spanish Civil War (of which I knew nothing about) and medical practices of the time. Well written and engaging, I enjoyed this. A solid 4 stars.

NetGalley, Devon Stringer

I have read tons of books about the heroic men and women of WWII and a few about WWI. The thing that delights me most is no matter what or how much I read about these subjects there is always something or someone new to discover. The number of men and women that did their duty, be it quietly, unnoticed in the background, or boldly up at the front lines is seemingly endless. The more I read and learn the more I find to keep reading and learning. This book is no exception!
Madge Addy was an extraordinary women! A woman of firm beliefs in right and wrong, a woman that wasn't afraid to stand up and fight for those beliefs. She started out volunteering to fight against Fascism, performing as a nurse in the Republican medical services during the Spanish Civil War. Even becoming for a short time a POW of the war. After the Spanish Civil War, Madge was living in Paris with her second husband Wilhelm Holst when the second WW broke out. They fled Paris when it became clear that the French would be defeated, landing in Marseilles where they quickly became involved with the resistance, helping trapped British soldiers escape and resisting the puppet Vichy government and German occupation.
Madge played many roles in the resistance and became a full fledged agent/spy, performing heroic acts, acting as courier delivering secret messages, setting up escape lines, helping compromised agents escape France. These are only of few of the activities she was involved in.
Her story is a story of unwavering loyalty and bravery against the evil forces of Fascism and Nazism.
This book is immaculately researched and presented in an engaging, understandable manner, holding the readers attention. l learned so much from this book, which is one of the main reasons I read a non-fiction biography or history. To Learn. I learned of the medical care during the Spanish Civil War and the conditions these people had to work through are amazing. I learned about nurses often having to perform surgeries themselves and the awful conditions they lived with, like sleeping on bloody cots, freezing in extreme temperatures, rats, lice and god know what else. It really boggles the mind. And when I read about the heroes from those times I can't thank them enough for their bravery and courage, and all the sacrifices they made to defeat the evil of Fascism and Nazism. If not for them our world and our lives would be very different today. We owe all our little freedoms that we so much take for granted to them, and by keeping their stories alive is one way to can honor them. This book very much keeps Madge's story alive. It is a terrific well written book and I recommend it highly to everyone interested in the history and heroes of these times.

NetGalley, Lori Harris

The 'ordinary' nurse who became a spy: Incredible story of unlikely secret agent who left Britain for a Spanish Civil War hospital before being drawn into the cloak-and-dagger world of WWII resistance is told in a new book

Daily Mail Online, 15/06/21

A very well written look at the Spanish Civil war and those who tried to fight the rise of Franco. It also then follows some of those same individuals into the Second World War. Good first hand accounts helped to give a better picture of the events of the time.

NetGalley, Ron Baumer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Books such as this which focus on people of extraordinary courage are fascinating to read. I have read many, MANY WWII era books recently and the more I learn, the more I thirst to discover. British Madge Addy was a remarkable woman, fearless in ways, very enterprising and smart. She worked in the Spanish Civil War as well as WWII. She was a chiropodist in Manchester, a nurse in Spain and a secret agent where she also acted as a courier to deliver messages in the lining of her coat to Portugal, all amazing considering the time and the fact women rarely traveled. She helped organize the Garrow escape line which enabled Allied soldiers to escape. She became an integral link to huge chains. Though Made did not journal she wrote copious letters describing conditions when pleading for aid.

The author describes Madge's background and history as well as meticulously-researched details on both wars. This book is a wide look into a completely different world than ours. Many snippets stood out for me but aside from Madge's incredible bravery I learned about the standards of medical care in Spain and Britain. I learned common sense details I hadn't thought of before such as night nurse placing oil lamps in the hallway nearest to where she was working so she could be found. I learned more about the Quakers during the war, what plaster coal and fruit were used for, the importance of Izal toilet paper (!) and the abysmal conditions nurses had to tolerate including sleeping on bloody stretchers and dealing with extreme temperatures and vermin such as lice and rats. So did the injured soldiers. Not only that but nurses sometimes had to operate and triage. Madge directly transfused blood to patients. She also taught Spanish nurses and begged for medical supplies. The author describes organization like Milk for Spain as well.

The commonality of these heroes and heroines is that regardless of their political stance they were compassionate, cared about humanitarian work and improving lives.

History readers, especially those who are medically inclined should read this.

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

About Chris Hall

Chris Hall is a librarian and an expert on military history and the Spanish Civil War, who has studied at the Universities of Newcastle, Northumbria and Manchester Metropolitan. His previous published works include Orwell and his fellow British and Irish volunteers and interviews with men who fought in the International Brigades in Spain’s civil war.

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