Muriel Tamara Byck

Section Officer, Women’s Auxiliary Air Force/ Special Operations Executive
Service number 2071428
Died 23 May 1944
Buried Pornic War Cemetery, France
Age 25

Headstone Inscription

Muriel was born on 4 June 1918 in Ealing to Jacques Byck and Luba Basia nee Golynska, who both originated from Ukraine. Muriel’s childhood involved a year-long visit to Germany with her family from 1923 to 1924 when they had lived in Wiesbaden and four years in France from 1926 to 1930 where she attended the Lycée de Jeunes Filles at St. Germain-en-Laye outside Paris. The family returned to England in 1930, but her parents divorced while Muriel continued her French education at the Lycée Francais in South Kensington, London. She passed her Baccalauréat in July 1935 and then finished her studies at the Université de Lille in northern France. Her command of French, which she spoke with no accent, was total and she was also fluent in Russian which had been spoken by her parents. Muriel’s story can be found on the link below.

Grateful thanks to Paul McCue for his help and research. and to AJEX Archivist, Martin Sugarman

Photo credit Paul and Sue Robinson via Paul McCue
Photo credit Martin Sugarman

With such courage she flew,
O’er green fields and dark waters,
For the land that she knew,
Oh! Judean daughter!

By moonlight she came,
Oh! The piper’s refrain!

With codes and with stealth
She took up the fight,
With cycles and cars in the green fields of France.
By day and by night, this Hebrew Yael,
By moonlight she’d flown,
Oh! The piper’s refrain!

The enemy closed again and again,
And her allies and friends hid her here, hid her there.
But not once did she flinch, nor her messages fail,
By moonlight she’d come,
This Hebrew Yael.

The work of her hands, her spirit and skills,
Were to save many lives in France’s green fields.

But cyanide and silk and revolver to hand,
Were her constant companions and soon wore her down.

So long life was not hers,
She was taken too soon,
To the shade of His wings,
This Hebrew Yael.

Now in Brittany’s fields,
‘neath her six pointed Star,
The piper’s refrain is heard evermore.

Martin Sugarman, 2001
This poem was inspired by my long-awaited visit to Muriel’s grave at Pornic CWGC cemetery in
Brittany in July 2001, when with the Society’s St. Nazaire tour. The short life of Muriel Tamara Byck,
Mentioned in Despatches, Jewish SOE agent, had never been researched until I wrote about her and Denise Bloch (the other Jewish girl killed with SOE French Section – thirteen SOE girls died overall).
My deep thanks goes to Ian Alexander for the piper’s lament which I felt he played for her as well as all those others who never returned, at Escoublac cemetery on that lovely July day.