Monty’s D–Day party girl knew all the secrets of Normandy landings

When nerves were at their peak on a night preceding D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy, a girl of only 20 years age was entrusted with the duty of entertaining more than 60 allied commanding officers, in order to relieve the tension that was building toward the moment of launch for the impending attack.

Although she was very young, Stella Rutter had already served in a sensitive capacity as the only draughtswoman to have worked for Supermarine, maker of the Spitfire, and proved herself trustworthy with classified information. Seeing the need for someone who could break the tension, General Montgomery conscripted her for the duty of lightening the load upon the shoulders of those whom the lives of so many would soon depend. The party was meant to be informal, and for many of the men, this was their first time in meeting one another. Plenty of alcohol was available, and she danced with them and kept them engaged with conversation.

To better prepare her for the duty, although only 20 years old, she was given a security clearance equal to that of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and informed of the code names and locations of where the landings would soon take place. To help the men feel at ease, she was included in something called the BIGOT (British Invasion of German Occupied Territory) list, a top secret list of those who were aware of the details for the coming invasion. They were given no cause to worry; however, her instructions were to talk about anything except the war and keep them supplied with food and drink.

For the next 60 years, while commanding officers who attended the party were still living, she was not to tell another soul of the get-together. Mrs. Rutters of Emsworth Hants, now a widow at the age of 91, has published her auto-biography of her career and wartime experiences, having kept detailed notes and diaries, The Telegraph reports.

“Montgomery wanted a woman to host it and not an official, in order to cut the protocol, “ she said. “I could feel some of them were jittery when I shook their hands. I made a point of calling them mister rather than by their title or rank. I spoke to them about traveling abroad, visiting art galleries and museums – I spoke about anything apart from the war. One US officer broke down on the dance floor and he was shuffled out of the room straight away so that the others didn’t see.

“There were buffet tables stacked full of food. On another table there was all the drink you could imagine, apart from champagne. People said what a jolly good do it was.”

Mrs Rutters met all of the D-Day commanders during the party, including Omar Bradley, who was a Lieutenant Commander at the time. She may now be the only surviving member of all the attendees at the event, now recorded in her book and entered into history.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE