France / Biography
The Merlinettes were the first female soldiers allowed into the French Army. Their unit was created in 1942 and they played a role in the liberation of France.
The Corps Féminin des Transmissions (C.F.T) (Women's Signal Corps), better known as Les Merlinettes, was a corps consisting of only women. The nickname derived from Colonel Merlin, who established the corps in 1942. Their training took place in French Algeria and they were considered the first female soldiers of the French Army. By the end of the war, there were around 2.000 Merlinettes.
They participated in the Liberation of France, the advance towards Germany and in Italy. Merlinettes worked as telephone operators, signals analysts, teletype, and radio operators. Colonel Merlin assigned them these communication functions to free up men for other tasks. In 1944, they became officially part of Charles de Gaulle's Free French Forces.
Some Merlinettes were able to continue their training in London and were being parachuted back to France as Special Operations Executive agents. Of the eleven women who were dropped behind enemy lines, four of them, Suzanne Mertzizen, Marie-Louise Cloarec, Eugénie Djendi and Pierrette Louin, were captured, interrogated, and sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp where they were executed on 18 January 1945.