ZDF Studios and World Media Rights co-produce major new docu-drama The Lost Women Spies

Mainz, January 29th, 2024

The Lost Women Spies (6 x 50’), a gripping, poignant docu-drama series about the fate of British female spies in WWII, is a brand new co-production from ZDF Studios and World Media Rights. Currently in production, the six-parter is scheduled for completion in March 2024.

World Media Rights (WMR), the London based production company, is renowned for producing award-winning docu-dramas. Long-standing partners with ZDF Studios, who own a share in WMR, their joint productions include Greatest Events of World War Two in Colour, The  Road to Victory, War Gamers and The Lost Pirate Kingdom amongst others.

Nikolas Hülbusch, Director Unscripted, ZDF Studios said: “The Lost Women Spies follows in the footsteps of War Gamers, our co-production for Curiosity Stream in 2023, about the women who worked out the U-boat tactics in WWII. Both titles explore the history of women in that war and has the same style and feel.  As War Gamers was a huge success internationally, we know that there is a genuine demand from viewers wanting to discover more about women in war.”

In April 1942 Churchill and his cabinet took a controversial decision: they would ignore the UK’s laws banning women from combat and send female agents to the front line in France. This proved an immense challenge. Vera Atkins of the Secret Operations Executive (SOE), had to find women that would pass as French, train them as spies and parachute them into occupied France. Many of them never came back.

In the year 2000 boxes containing top secret files were found in a garden shed in Cornwall. They detailed the lives of Britain’s first female agents who were sent to the frontline during the Second World War. The papers were collected and hidden away by British spymistress Vera Atkins. In keeping the secret files Atkins would have been in contravention of the Official Secrets Act.

Vera knew that sending women to the front line was illegal in World War Two. But Churchill so desperately needed agents who the Nazis would not detain in France that he ignored the law and sent them anyway. Vera selected the woman spies, trained them and saw them off at the airfields. Eventually she was horrified by the consequences of what she had done.

The women’s fate was covered up by the British authorities as many of them had suffered so horribly at the hands of the Nazis. By the end of the war the British military’s attitude was that they wanted to see the back ‘of this disgusting business’ as soon as possible and closed down Vera’s spy operation, and told Vera to keep it all out of the press.

But Vera wanted the real story of her women spies to be told. Also she wanted it known that, after the war ended, she went looking for all of her lost women spies. She was unable to tell the real story of her spies in her lifetime. But when she died she let it be known that all her records had been sent to her sister’s garden shed in Cornwall.

Now WMR Productions has got hold of Vera’s files and, for the first time on TV or Film, can tell the true story of her agents…and of the spymistress who led them.

A true story that has remained a secret for over fifty years.

Alan Griffiths, CEO of World Media Rights said: ‘Due to ZDF Studios’ support and vision we can now tell this unknown story of the Second World War for the first time. There are very few series about what happened after the war ended and, in many ways, the aftermath was as horrifying as the war itself, particularly for Vera Atkins.’

Video: The Lost Women Spies | ZDF Studios (zdf-studios.com)


About ZDF Studios
ZDF Studios is a commercial subsidiary of ZDF, one of the largest TV broadcasters in Europe. Founded in 1993 and headquartered in Mainz, Germany, the ZDF Studios Group operates more than 30 direct and indirect subsidiaries and affiliates in Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom spanning TV production, distribution and services. The parent company, ZDF Studios, is responsible for global programme distribution, realisation of international co-productions, acquisition of licences and merchandising of successful programme brands under its own name, for ZDF and third parties. ZDF Studios has the largest German-language programme inventory in the world and a constantly growing range of international productions, consisting of series and mini-series, television films, documentaries and children's programmes.

The companies of the ZDF Studios Group cover the entire value chain from the development of scripted and unscripted TV content to production, marketing and monetizing, including TV and streaming licences as well as merchandising and online rights. The positioning of ZDF Studios as an integrated media company enables the development of innovative, outstanding and high-quality programmes and makes the Group an attractive workplace for German and international talent to flourish in a very inspiring and creative environment.

Contact ZDF Studios
Christine Denilauler (VP Marketing and Corporate Communications), ZDF Studios GmbH, Erich-Dombrowski-Str. 1, 55127 Mainz/Germany, Tel.: +49 6131-9911130, E-mail: christine.denilauler@zdf-studios.com, www.zdf-studios.com