25 February 2008

RIP: Pearl Cornioley

Pearl Witherington Cornioley CBE
24 Jun 1914 - 24 Feb 2008

ZUI this article from Yahoo News:
British wartime secret service agent Pearl Cornioley, who helped the French resistance movement, died on Sunday at a hospital in the French Loire Valley, a family friend said. She was 93.

Cornioley, who in 2006 was honoured by the Royal Air Force for her role as a resistance fighter, died in hospital in Blois, south of Paris.

ZUI also this article (dated 11 Apr 06) from the Beeb:
Pearl Cornioley, formerly Witherington, became the leader of 1,500 French freedom fighters during World War II.

She was recommended for the Military Cross but, as a woman, was not allowed to receive it. She turned down an MBE, saying it was a "civil decoration".


Born to British parents in Paris, Pearl Witherington had already escaped occupied France with her mother and three sisters when she returned under cover of darkness aged 29.

She was parachuted into France from 300ft (91 metres) on the third attempt - regarded as an extremely low jumping point. Other attempts had been abandoned because the situation on the ground was considered too dangerous.

At the time, Mrs Cornioley said, she was "delighted to be in one piece and back on French soil" after finally making the jump.


"It was a complete accident that I ended up leading 1,500 resistance fighters. I was not a military person, I was supposed to be a courier, but I ended up having to use whatever sense I had - but I certainly didn't do this on my own," she said.

They were so effective, the Nazi regime put a 1 million franc (£500,000 today) bounty on her head.

Wikipedia has an article here, and Spartacus Educational has a brief one here. There is also a chapter about her in The Women Who Lived for Danger: The Agents of the Special Operations Executive, by Marcus Binney (available from Amazon here, through Amazon UK here, or from any good public library).

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