A BIRCHWOOD grandmother is currently starring in a BBC living history series which retells the training programme of Second World War spies.

Secret Agent Selection: WW2 offers an insight into how British people were trained to become Specialist Operations Executive officers.

Debbey Clitheroe, a special effects makeup teacher at Priestley College, spent four-weeks in the Scottish Highlands last year filming the reality show.

Debbey, 47, said: “I was made redundant as a drama teacher in my mid 40s and I was tired of people telling me what I couldn’t do at a certain age.

“It was really frustrating when people felt the need to comment on my age, I was still climbing Ben Nevis, even though I became a Nana!”

When Debbey saw the recruitment information, she knew she had to fill in an application.

“I thought if I didn’t apply I’d never know what could have been,” she said.

After a rigorous selection process including fitness tests, an hour with a psychotherapist and mental agility assessments, Debbey was chosen as one of the 14 people to appear on the BBC Two show.

The group was taken to an undisclosed location in the Highlands and not allowed access the outer world to make the experience as realistic as possible.

Fourteen contestants were selected for the show out of hundreds of applicants, but four were cut in the first week.

The remaining 10 will be put through their paces over the remaining episodes, with the trainers able to pull out anyone they consider too weak for the tasks.

The programme combines a historical re-telling of Churchill’s SOEs with a gruelling training plan for the contestants in the five-part reality series, which is currently being screened on Monday nights.

Debbey, a mum-of-three, said: “One of my biggest fears is open water and for one of the tasks we have to swim across a loch while dragging a log and backpack in our 1940s uniform.

“That was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve done.”

Debbey, a vegetarian, also had to gut a living rat and stuff it with plastic explosives.

They are also trained in guerilla warfare and propaganda.

When she returned to her teaching job at Priestley, Debbey felt compelled to share the stories of the female agents whose bravery is often overlooked.

She added: “We were each given a profile of a Second World War agent who they felt we matched best with.

“We were never told about these women who gave their lives up and helped to win the war. I wanted to teach my students about their involvement and they were so interested in the stories that they ended up staging a re-enactment of their lives.”

Debbey says she has made friends for life from the show and is cycling through France with four other contestants this summer.

You can watch Secret Agent Selection: WW2 on Mondays at 9pm on BBC Two or catch up on iPlayer.