GWR names first of six trains in honour of Heroes of WW2. Most highly decorated spy of the war commemorated

Friday 06th March 2020

Great Western Railway (GWR) will mark 75 years since the end of World War 2 and peace was declared in Europe by naming six trains after remarkable individuals involved in the conflict.

The first of those honoured was Odette Hallowes, a French citizen who lived in London and on the Devon/Somerset borders. Odette became a Special Operations Executive and the most highly decorated spy of the war.

A special ceremony took place at Paddington station this morning and was attended by:

  • HRH Princess Royal
  • Marianne Bates, daughter of Odette Hallowes
  • Sophie Parker, granddaughter of Odette
  • Sybil Beaton, daughter of Maurice Buckmaster. Maurice was leader of the French section of the Special Operations Executive
  • Tania Szabo, daughter of Violette Szabo. Violet was a fellow SEO in France and was imprisoned along with Odette. Violette was executed in February 1945
  • Representatives from the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, and from the French Embassy among others
Image of Odette Hallowes
Odette Hallowes

Odette’s granddaughter, Sophie Parker said:

“It means so much to our family that Odette is being recognised and remembered in this most moving way. Odette’s story is one of courage, dignity and hope; all of which were so important to her during her wartime service, and in overcoming the torture she suffered.

“I know Odette would be extremely humbled by this honour, and would want it seen as a tribute to all those brave women of the Special Operations Executive, especially those who never returned home.”

The ceremony has been organised to mark International Women’s Day on Sunday 8 March. After the naming ceremony the train formed the 1132 London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads service and was operated by an all-female crew and dispatched at stations on route by female dispatch staff.

GWR Human Resources Director Ruth Busby said:

“The communities we serve nominated our 100 Great Westerners and their stories are truly remarkable.

"As part of our commemoration marking 75 years since Victory in Europe was declared, we are really honoured that one of our Intercity Express Trains will be carrying the name 'Odette Hallowes'.

The story of her wartime service and peacetime work is one of bravery, tenacity, survival and inspiration."

Those also being honoured in commemoration of 75 years since Victory in Europe represent the armed forces, the intelligence services and the world of politics, and remember the sacrifice, bravery and tenacity that helped defeat Nazism.

Among others, those to have an Intercity Express Train named after them in the next few weeks include:

  • Harry Billinge MBE from St Austell in Cornwall, a veteran of D-Day
  • Wing Commander Ken Rees from Wales, Wellington Bomber pilot who was imprisoned in Stalag Luft III
  • Alan Turing from London, who led Hut 8 at the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, responsible for breaking of German ciphers.

GWR Head of Communications Dan Panes said:

“Naming trains and locomotives is a long tradition of the railway and one which GWR continues, supporting and promoting the people and communities we serve.

“I am really pleased we are able to honour some of the heroes of the war effort, continuing to help tell their incredible stories, and especially during this year where we remember all those who gave so much.”

The six trains will be named during March and April in the run-up to VE Day at the beginning of May.

Further details of each of the ceremonies will be published in the coming weeks.

Notes to editors
Great Western Railway (GWR) provides high speed, commuter, regional and branch line train services. We help over 100 million passengers reach their destinations every year - across South Wales, the West Country, the Cotswolds, and large parts of Southern England.

We’re currently seeing the biggest investment in the network since Brunel so we can offer more trains, more seats, and shorter, more frequent journeys and continue the network’s heritage of helping connect more businesses to new and prosperous markets. Through a series of initiatives we aim to be a good neighbour to the communities we serve and are committed to making a positive social impact in those regions. Learn how we're Building a Greater West at GWR is a FirstGroup company.