CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

My mum was a spy: Devon woman uncovers her mother’s connection to Norwegian WWII resistance fighters

PUBLISHED: 10:41 25 September 2018

Carolyn's mother, Mary Jeanette Luxmoore

Carolyn's mother, Mary Jeanette Luxmoore


CAROLYN SEAGER reveals how long after her mother’s death she discovered her amazing career in the service of her country

There can be few of us whose hearts didn’t ache as they watched a 12-year-old Prince Harry walking behind his mother’s coffin in 1997. Memories of my own mother’s funeral in 1977 came surging back to me, for I too was near Harry’s age when I lost my mother.

Harry might forever carry painful memories of his mother’s funeral, but I’m sure the Royal Standard in which the Princess’ coffin was draped won’t feature in them. In contrast, the Union Jack that was laid over my mother’s coffin is all I do remember.

The event was so painful I obliterated most of the detail but that flag haunted me. But hey, we were the family who had a signed portrait of Winston Churchill hanging in their 1950s semi. Didn’t everyone?

Carolyn discovered a secret treasure trove of documents and photographs in her mother's belongingsCarolyn discovered a secret treasure trove of documents and photographs in her mother's belongings

I remember sharing the sense of paralysing fear Harry must have felt that day. The British mantra of ‘just get on with it’ might have served wartime generations well, but for a child, it’s brutal.

From my Mum’s funeral onwards, our family barely mentioned her. My only memories were a patchwork of Woolacombe surfs, Lundy adventures, wild Exmoor excursions and rainy Saturdays when, inexplicably, I’d be taught Morse Code.

But that was okay for me – the moors and waves of North Devon nurtured me into adulthood and gifted me an imagination I could escape into. Storylines would centre around my Mum, a courageous protagonist of glamour and intrigue. Fast forward 40 years and who would have known that what I’d uncover would be stranger than fiction?

A photograph of Erik RaestadA photograph of Erik Raestad

I’d moved house and for the first time set about investigating Mum’s storage boxes. I discovered a Pandora’s Box of World War Two memories.

Tins of letters from Norwegian resistance fighters, sketches of partisan wireless operators, a F.A.N.Y. (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry) uniform, and a plethora of newspaper articles about Norwegian hydro-electric sabotage operations. Last but not least an immaculate Second World War Morse Code wireless.

Tears fell as I read those letters and realised that the man I knew as ‘Uncle Erik from Norway’ was a hydro-electric specialist who’d become a Norwegian resistance fighter codenamed ‘Timian’.

A certificate awarded to Mary Jeanette Luxmoore by her grateful home townA certificate awarded to Mary Jeanette Luxmoore by her grateful home town

It was he who’d been on the other end of the communications sent by my mother. I don’t know how they’d found each other after the war, but it was friendship they’d keep until their deaths.

I’m now piecing together my mother’s wartime history with the help of the F.A.N.Y. archivists. They explained that when the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) was set up in 1940 the F.A.N.Y became their chief source for agents and signal operators.

They confirmed my mother, Mary Jeanette Luxmoore, had been an S.O.E. wireless operator working on special operations after joining the F.A.N.Y in 1943 fresh from Ilfracombe. Following initial training, she’d been sent to Special Training School (STS) 54a at Fawley Court, Henley-On-Thames and then STS 54b at Bellhaven School, East Lothian.

Norwegian freedom fighters Erik Raestad and Arne LochenNorwegian freedom fighters Erik Raestad and Arne Lochen

Research is ongoing, but the fact that ‘Uncle Erik’ was a hydro-electric specialist leads me to suspect Mum was part of Operation Grouse or Gunnerside which successfully ended the Nazi Nuclear bomb project.

I might never find out the details…unlike the ‘selfie’ world of today, this was a generation that carried the secret timelines to the grave. What I do know is that although my mother left me early, she has gifted me a legacy that I’m eternally grateful for – a free country of which I’m proud.

Oh, and could it be the mystery of Mr Churchill’s presence hanging in our dining room has been solved? Maybe, and somehow that Union Jack seems right and fitting now.

The Second World War Morse Code wirelessThe Second World War Morse Code wireless

Lest we forget:

Erik Raestad and Arne Lochen

- By April, 1940 many of Norway’s cities had been seized by the Nazis.

- In June, 1940 the Norwegians surrendered and Erik entered the Norwegian intelligence services. His duties included recording the movements of battleships like the Terpitz.

- He was arrested by the Germans and sent to Falstad Concentration Camp.

- He was put into hard labour at the German navy dockyard where he smuggled out sketches of the Terpitz’s camouflage to his colleagues in the Resistance.

- He was released and went straight into training as a wireless operator with the Norwegian Underground. His code name was Timian.

- Arne Lochen worked as an underground weapons instructor. He was caught by the Nazis and sent to Grini Concentration Camp.

The story of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (F.A.N.Y.)

- Originally formed as a WW1 mounted nursing unit in 1907.

- In one night, eighteen were awarded the Military Medal.

- When the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) was established in 1940 the F.A.N.Y. became their recruiting ground and a perfect cover for their secret work.

- Over two thousand ‘Fanys’ became secret service women who were dropped into enemy territory or decoded wireless communications from agents.

- Forty-seven ‘Fanys’ saw service ‘in the field’, thirteen died in action.

- The F.A.N.Y (Princess Royal’s Volunteer Corp) still exists today as an all-female voluntary organisation supporting civil and military authorities during times of crisis.


Follow Devon Life on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Friday, December 7, 2018

Devon Life received this heartfelt letter from Mr Michael Thompson, of Torbay, which is felt particularly poignant to share with our website audience at this time of year

Read more
Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Bursting with festive inspiration, KATE WILLIAMS seeks out the best presents for a perfect Devon Christmas

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Devon has had more than its fair share of high achievers over the years but how well do you know our county’s singers, authors, sportspeople, explorers and TV personalities? This is an edited version of a quiz compiled by MARGARET BRECKNELL in the December 2018 issue of Devon Life

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

PHILIP DALLING recalls two Exmoor legends who shared a deep love of the moor and its natural resources, and gained national fame through the media

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

In the month when we mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, STEVE ROBERTS highlights the terrible cost in human lives it inflicted on the county of Devon

Read more
Friday, November 16, 2018

Actor Tom Burke talks to JUDI SPIERS about his production of Don Carlos staged by his own theatre company Ara, in association with Exeter’s Northcott Theatre

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

In the latest in her series throughout 2018 profiling inspirational women, KATE HASKELL talks to England Women’s Cricket Captain, Heather Knight

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

There is more to Georgia Toffolo than an award-winning TV show, as HOLLY EELLS discovers

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

Striving to be the best in the world, homegrown Devon professional squash player Lyell Fuller is seeking sponsorship to help reach his goal. KATE WILLAMS finds out more

Read more
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Tavistock Rugby Club in Devon is celebrating after being awarded a grant of £2,500 to fund private showers for referees at their Sandy Park ground, as part of rural energy provider Calor’s annual funding scheme

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Devon’s Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, also known as The Black Farmer, tells KATE WILLIAMS about his new book, Jeopardy, encouraging the embracing of risk to enrich life

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

As five members of Dartmoor Search and Rescue Ashburton celebrate 125 years of collective volunteering, we look back on their time with the organisation

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

CAROLYN SEAGER reveals how long after her mother’s death she discovered her amazing career in the service of her country

Read more
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

An author known for her novels depicting life on the Channel Islands is nonetheless happiest writing from home here in Devon

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search