Yolande Elsa Maria Unternahrer was born on 28 October 1911 at 13 Avenue de la Grande Armée, Paris, France, one of the six children of Swiss nationals Michelangelo Mercurio (1872-1953) and Berthe Lydie Unternahrer (1889-1956). Her Wikipedia page (in 2022) gives her date of birth as 7 January 1911 and our Picture Source states that according to her Special Operations Executive (SOE) records she was born on 7 November 1911. We have chosen to use the date shown on the 1939 England and Wales Register.
According to the Farmilo(e) story website her parents were unable to marry as her Roman Catholic father was already married and unable to divorce his wife. This website also shows the various addresses that the family lived in France, Italy & Switzerland and that they came to England on 4 April 1929.
The 1939 England and Wales Register shows her as a drapery shop assistant living at 6 Lissenden Mansions, Lissenden Gardens, London, NW5, with her parents and two other siblings.
On the outbreak of World War Two she joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, service number 9902, rising to the rank of Section Officer. Seconded to the Women's Transport Service (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry) she joined the Special Operations Executive. On 11 August 1943 she married Jacob Beekman, who was a Dutchman also known as Jaap Beekman (1919-2010) in the St Pancras registration district, London. The Nigel Perrin website describes her service as Wireless Operator in the French Section of the SOE, how she was captured and executed, aged 32 years, on 13 September 1944 at the Dachau Concentration Camp, Germany, together with three other agents, Ensign Madeleine Damerment, Section Officer Noor Inayat-Khan and Ensign Eliane Sophie Plewman. Their bodies were all cremated.
In the United Kingdom she was posthumously 'Mentioned in Despatches' and by France she was awarded the Croix de Guerre 1939-1945.
As she has no grave she is commemorated on Panel 243 at the Runnymede Air Forces Memorial, Cooper's Hill Lane, Englefield Green, Egham, TW20 0BL as Section Officer Y. E. M. Unternahrer, on a plaque to all four agents at the crematorium at Dachau Concentration Camp, on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's website, on the Valençay SOE Memorial Roll of Honour, France and on the Memorial to the Women of SOE at Mill Lane, Tempsford, Lincolnshire.
Credit for this entry to: Andrew Behan