We’ve recently been rummaging through piles of old photos of Anthony Quayle, many of which have stirred up evocative stories of his secret special operations during the Second World War.
The image below of John Perry, Noel Coward and Anthony Quayle in uniform was taken in Gibraltar in 1943 during the Second World War. It is a wonderful reminder of their various contributions to the war effort, not least of all Anthony’s active service with SOE, the Special Operations Executive, which Churchill had established to lead covert missions behind enemy lines in order to ‘set Europe ablaze’.
Anthony served as an SOE liaison officer with the partisans in Albania, which affected him quite significantly and he was reluctant to discuss his experiences publicly. He fictionalised two of his most dramatic wartime experiences in novels that were published after the war. Eight Hours from England is based around his SOE service in Albania and On Such a Night is based around the real life air crash of General Wladyslaw Sikorski in July 1943, when Anthony was serving as an aide to the Governor of Gibraltar.
It has to be said that SOE’s work to destabilise the Nazi regime and to prop up resistance organisations throughout occupied Europe played an invaluable part in the defeat of Nazi fascism. This photo of John, Noel and Anthony is a useful reminder, ‘lest we forget’.