A DANISH World War II resistance leader, who hailed from Derrylin, will be remembered on Saturday.
The unveiling of a blue plaque will take place at Kinawley Parish Church to honour the memory of Monica de Wichfeld (nee Massy-Beresford).
The plaque, which will be unveiled by Lady Dunleath of Ballywalter, Co. Down, will commemorate her inspiring life.
Monica Massy-Beresford was born on July 12, 1894, at 7 Eaton Square, London, the daughter of John George Massy-Beresford and the Honourable Alice Elizabeth Mulholland, the daughter of John Mulholland, the 1st Baron Dunleath of Ballywalter.
The Massy-Beresford family came from Irish-Scottish stock. Ten days after her birth, Monica arrived at their Irish home, St Hubert’s Geaglum, Derrylin and so began her early life in Co. Fermanagh.
Her childhood was spent in the large comfortable Victorian house that had been acquired by the Dean of Kilmore, her grandfather. Monica’s memories of her childhood were centred on St Hubert’s and Lough Erne.
This peaceful life at St Hubert’s was shattered with the start of World War I, however. Her father left to join the Ambulance Corps and her brothers joined the regiment. She saw her cousins and friends killed early in the war.
In I9I5 she left the luxury of St Hubert’s and her life as she knew it, and obtained a job in a soldier’s canteen in the East End of London.
In I9I6 Monica Massy-Beresford married Danish aristocrat and diplomat, Jorgen Wichfeld, the Secretary of the Danish Legation in London.
She and Jorgen moved to his Engestofte Estate in Lolland, Denmark and Monica became a Danish citizen. Three children followed, Ivan, Varinka and Viggo. In I94I, Monica, without her husband’s knowledge, became an active member of the underground Danish resistance.
Monica eventually became the leader of the Lolland resistance and Engestofte became central to the recruitment, training, arming, planning, direction and organisation of the actions of the resistance.
Her name was given to the Gestapo by one of her comrades in I944. She was arrested along with six other colleagues and tried before a Nazi court. All were found guilty and sentenced to death.
Monica was moved from Denmark to Germany and finally to Waldheim Prison Concentration Camp. Her health deteriorated badly and after having tuberculosis, she died of pneumonia on February 27, 1945, one month before the end of the war and 13 months after her captivity. Her body was never found.
“Monica de Wichfeld spent her early life in Co. Fermanagh with her parents, the Massy-Beresfords, then after marriage she lived across the Continent in the inter-war years of the 1920s and ’30s,” Chris Spurr, chairman of the Ulster History Circle, explained.
“It was in Denmark that she became a heroine of World War II, and on Armistice Day the Ulster History Circle is delighted to commemorate this leader of the Danish resistance with a blue plaque.
“The Circle is particularly grateful to the Ulster-Scots Agency for their financial support, and to the Rev. Alastair Donaldson, rector of the Kinawley and Holy Trinity group of parishes, for his valued assistance.”
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