Pippa Latour NZ Herald Article

Discussion in 'SOE & OSS' started by Jedburgh22, Nov 15, 2014.

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  1. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    A spy called Genevieve
    By Andrew Stone
    5:00 AM Saturday Nov 15, 2014






    An agent who evaded the Nazis to send coded messages to Britain is to be honoured by France. Andrew Stone writes about a modest war hero who lives quietly in Auckland.


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    The heavy United States Air Force bomber flew in low over the drop zone in Nazi-occupied France.
    Inside the black-painted B-24 Liberator, Phyllis Latour - code name "Genevieve" - got ready to jump. The 23-year-old agent had spent months immersed in secret tradecraft to prepare for this moment.
    Through his headphones, Texan Jose Morales, one of the aircrew, was told by pilot Jerome Crance to lift the hatch in the fuselage floor.
    As the cold night air swept into the plane, Latour dangled her legs through the opening. Morales attached a static line to Latour's parachute overalls, an unfashionable outfit agents called "striptease suits" because they had to rip them off the moment they hit the ground.
    She had a small spade strapped to her leg to bury the clothing and her parachute. She had already been told about the pills agents carried - Benzedrine to stay alert, and the so-called "L-tablet", a rubber-encased suicide capsule. Death would follow in 15 seconds for an agent who bit on it.

    At a few minutes after 1am on May 2, 1944, the four-engined plane was down to 600ft, evading radar detection and maintaining air speed of 125 mph.
    Coded torchlight signals flashed from the ground told Crance and navigator Robert Martin that French resistance fighters were waiting on the ground. Twelve containers filled with equipment for the resistance were dropped, along with propaganda leaflets. On a panel monitored by Morales a green light came on, indicating the human cargo could go.
    Crance's mission - code-named "Scientist 82", in papers marked "Secret" - said farewell to the agent, who slipped into the night over north-western France, and into the pages of history as one of the heroines of Britain's Special Operations Executive, the secret force that wartime leader Winston Churchill wanted to "set Europe ablaze".
    Latour - now Pippa Doyle - was one of 40 women SOE agents. A modest woman who for half a century didn't even tell her adult children about her clandestine career, Doyle was made an MBE by a grateful British Government and decorated with a Croix de Guerre - Cross of War - by France.
    At the age of 93, the sprightly Doyle - who for several decades has called New Zealand home - is getting a new honour for her bravery in World War II. Paris is giving her a medal that makes her a Knight of the Legion of Honor, an order established by Napoleon Bonaparte and the highest decoration in France.
    The French Ambassador, Mr Laurent Contini, who is presenting the Legion of Honor to Mrs Doyle on November 25, said she was a "formidable example for younger and older generations alike."
    "I have deep admiration for her bravery and her unshakable commitment to ending the war and it will be with great honour that I present her with the award," he said.
    Mrs Doyle is reluctant to talk publicly about her wartime experiences, though she does enjoy reminiscing with other veterans.
    Using World War II records, memoirs of SOE agents and descriptions of its secret networks, it is possible to retrace Latour's mission in the months leading up to the D-Day Normandy landings in June 1944.
    THE DAUGHTER of a French doctor and an English mother, Phyllis Ada Latour was born on April 8, 1921. Both parents died during her childhood. Her father was the victim of tribal wars in the Congo and her mother, who remarried a racing driver, was tragically killed when she crashed a racing car.
    Pippa, as she was known to friends and family, eventually made her way to England and joined the Women's Auxillary Air Force (WAAF) in 1941.
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    Trained as a flight mechanic on airframes, she impressed SOE talent-spotters with her tenacity, spirit and fluency in French - a prerequisite for agents dropped behind enemy lines.
    Latour's training was crammed into a few months. Besides gruelling physical tests, which covered lessons in scaling buildings and wriggling across muddy fields, recuits got burglary lessons from "Killer" Green, who was trained by underworld figures in lock picking and using plasticine to make copies of keys.
    Unarmed combat was taught by two former Far East police officers. Trainees learned "silent killing", a martial arts technique devised to deal with Shanghai's underground where murder and gang warfare thrived.
    Weapons training introduced agents to the Sten gun. For her radio coaching, Latour had to memorise Morse code and tap out 24 words a minute at a time telegraphists had to achieve only half that speed. Agents were taught to encrypt messages, and to repair broken wireless sets. Training involved being sent to remote places and transmitting messages to home stations, incorporating security checks so listeners could sift genuine transmissions from field reports sent under duress or even bogus calls created by the Nazis.
    Suitable candidates for the SOE's Section F (for France) also had to "think French" - in other words, be able to convince captors should the need arise that they were in fact French natives. A simple slip, they were warned, could be fatal.
    So they were told that milk was not available for coffee (thus ordering a cafe au lait could raise eyebrows) and to cycle on the correct (right) side of the road. Agents had to look, and believe, they were French.
    The diminutive, dark-haired Latour must have passed this test because her cover was put to the test on at least two occasions.
    Two German soldiers soldiers looking for food surprised her one day. Playing on the enemy's fear of infectious disease, the quick-witted agent pretended she had scarlet fever and was packing her suitcase to go home.
    The soldiers abruptly left, failing to peer in the luggage where they would have discovered Latour's compromising radio set.
    Another narrow escape occurred when Latour found herself rounded up for questioning by police. Told by a female officer to remove her clothes in case she was hiding incriminating material, the agent coolly undid a lace that held her hair in place. Shaking her head to convince her inquisitor there was nothing concealed in her locks, Latour admitted to a nervous moment before she passed inspection.
    She had every reason to fear exposure: before heading into the field, agents were warned their chances of survival were about 50 per cent, and perhaps less if they were, like Latour, wireless operators. Unbeknown to police, the tie in Latour's hair hid her invaluable codes.
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    Some years ago, Mrs Doyle, then 86, told the NZ Army News about her secret.
    As Genevieve, cycling around the French countryside, she always carried knitting because her codes were on a piece of silk. After employing a code, she would pin-prick it to confirm its use.
    She told the magazine: "I wrapped the piece of silk around a knitting needle and put it in flat shoelace, which used to tie my hair up."
    In France, Latour joined an underground SOE network called "Scientist", run by the irascible Claude de Baissac. An experienced operator, de Baissac - or "Denis" - had to plug gaps in the SOE's northern France operations caused by double agents and lay the groundwork for an anticipated Allied landing.
    For Latour's cover story, De Baissac had forged papers showing she had left Paris to study painting. Within days of dropping into France, Latour made contact with London, using a safe house belonging to a doctor, before shifting to de Baissac's farmhouse headquarters.
    But word got back to the network that an informer was among the resistance group who collected Latour and that the Germans, thick on the ground in the Mayenne area, had discovered her parachute.
    Forced to move, Latour, who by now was working closely with de Baissac's sister Lise - "Odile" - fled on a bicycle and set up in a barn. Using radio sets hidden round the countryside, Latour sent a stream of coded reports to London, her work intensifying as D-Day drew near.
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    The cycles served another purpose - they could be used to charge radio batteries.
    SS squads and Gestapo members were never far away. At some point a German Direction Finding vehicle had a bead on her signal. Fortunately for Latour, French patriots destroyed the van before it detected her.
    Squadron Leader Beryl E. Escott, who wrote Heroines of the SOE, records that Latour and Lise had a number of close shaves at German roadblocks. In one incident, the pair were cycling to a nearby village for parts to repair Latour's wireless. Both were frisked, Escott wrote, but nothing was found. For the two women agents, remarked Lise, it was "a big fright".
    In the space of a few months, Latour sent 135 messages to London. The intelligence was fed into the huge Allied command machine, and used to guide bombing missions to enemy targets. With de Baissac busy finding landing sites, pulling together resistance groups and trying to stay one step ahead of German patrols, "Genevieve" became a vital element of the Scientist network.
    The groundwork paid off. When D-Day arrived, the network swung into action. De Baissac reported that hundreds of German vehicles were rendered useless and valuable details about the German presence helped entrench the Normandy bridgehead.
    In the end, Latour had to cool her heels with the Americans for a few hours after US troops detained her as they pushed into France. She was freed when a friend recognised her and was able to observe the Allied forces carry on to liberate France.


    SOE Survivor

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    Forty women were sent undercover to mainland Europe by Britain during World War II to prepare for the Allied invasion.
    Recruited by the secret Special Operations Executive (SOE), they received intensive survival training before their insertion behind enemy lines. They learned cover stories, ways of living rough and techniques to handle interrogation.
    Like the other women, Phyllis Latour - "Genevieve" - had to do it tough. Interviewed some years ago by the NZ Army News, she recalled how she was always hungry as she searched for a bed and food.
    "One family I stayed with told me were eating squirrel," Latour told the magazine. "I found out later it was rat. I was half-starved so I didn't care."
    Unlike 14 SOE female agents, Latour got out alive. Four of the women who died perished in Nazi gas chambers and three were shot at Dachau concentration camp. During the war about 500 SOE agents went to France as part of Section F. One in five never returned.
    - NZ Herald
     
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  2. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    A Brave Lady. Thanks for posting

    Cheers
    Paul
     
  3. JJHH

    JJHH Member

    Is it correct by the way, that she was 'one of 40 women agents'?
     
  4. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    I think that 39 agents were sent into France by F Section, other female agents were dropped into Holland, Belgium and Hungary. Females were e,deployed in Italy mainly as line-crossers. A number of female agents were used in the SAARF missions at the end of the war. RF Section also deployed some female agents
     
  5. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Wartime spy finally accepts she is a French heroine

    A 93-year-old former British secret agent will receive France's highest award for her courage - 70 years after parachuting behind enemy lines in preparation for D-Day




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    Mrs Doyle was dropped behind enemy lines under a new code name, Paulette, into the Calvados region of Normandy on May 1 1944.












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    By Robert Mendick, Chief Reporter

    9:00PM GMT 22 Nov 2014





    For decades she has remained in the shadows; a reluctant heroine with an astonishing past. But on Tuesday, Phyllis Latour Doyle, a 93-year-old former British spy, will step into the limelight.


    Seventy years after being parachuted behind enemy lines in occupied Normandy, Mrs Doyle – or Pippa to her friends – will be awarded the Legion of Honour, France’s highest decoration, in recognition of her courage in helping to liberate the country from the Nazis.


    Motivated in part by revenge for the murder by the Germans of a close family friend, Mrs Doyle engaged in a mission to gather information on German positions ahead of the D-Day landings. In all, she relayed 135 secret messages to Britain before France’s eventual liberation in August 1944.










    She was awarded the MBE for her bravery by the British government but her actions have remained largely unheralded. Mrs Doyle didn’t even tell her children about her exploits until 15 years ago.


    That anonymity will change when the French ambassador to New Zealand, where Mrs Doyle, a mother of four, now lives, bestows upon her the Legion of Honour on Tuesday November 25.




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    Mrs Doyle was one of a handful of female agents working for the Special Operations Executive (SOE), set up to spy upon and sabotage Nazi-occupied Europe. She had joined the RAF to train as a flight mechanic in 1941 but the secret services spotted her potential. Although her mother was English, her father was a French doctor and Mrs Doyle was fluent in the language. Instead of working on fixing aircraft, she was whisked away for training in espionage.
    “It wasn’t until after my first round of training that they told me they wanted me to become a member of the SOE,” she said in a rare interview five years ago, “They said I could have three days to think about it. I told them I didn’t need three days to make a decision; I’d take the job now.”
    A close family friend – her godmother’s father – had been shot by the Germans and her godmother had committed suicide after being taken prisoner by the Nazis. “I did it for revenge,” Mrs Doyle told the New Zealand Army News magazine in 2009.
    In Britain, the SOE operatives were trained by a cat burglar, released from jail especially. “We learnt how to get in a high window, and down drain pipes, how to climb over roofs without being caught,” she recalled.
    Given three separate code names – Genevieve, Plus Fours and Lampooner – she was first deployed in Aquitaine in Vichy France from 1942.
    She was dropped behind enemy lines under a new code name, Paulette, into the Calvados region of Normandy on May 1 1944.
    Although then aged 23, she assumed the identity of a poor 14-year-old French girl to make the Germans less suspicious. She used bicycles to tour the area, passing information through coded messages.
    The messages would take half an hour to send and the Germans an hour and a half to trace the signal. She would have just enough time to send her message and move on before being discovered.
    She would sleep rough in forests, forced to forage for food, or stay with Allied sympathisers. “One family I stayed with told me we were eating squirrel,” she told the Army News, “I found out later it was rat. I was half starved so I didn’t care.”
    But the war – and the horrors she witnessed – took its toll. She has disclosed how she sent a message requesting a German listening post be taken out by bombers but a German woman and two children died.
    “I heard I was responsible for their deaths. It was a horrible feeling,” she said, “I later attended the funeral of a grandmother, her daughter and her two grandchildren, knowing I had indirectly caused their deaths.”
    After the war, Mrs Doyle returned to Kenya, where she had gone to school, for her wedding to an Australian engineer. The couple had four children and moved to Fiji and then on to Australia, where they settled.
    Eventually, she moved with her children to a suburb of Auckland, New Zealand, divorcing her husband in the mid 1970s.
    Her bridesmaid, Barbara Blake, 91, who lives in north London, said her friend had never wanted publicity for her deeds. The French government, however, had wanted to make its award public to highlight Mrs Doyle’s remarkable achievements.
    It wasn’t until the last 15 years or so – and her children now grown up – that Mrs Doyle confided in them about her career as a spy. “My eldest son found out by reading something on the internet, and my children insisted I send off for my medals,” she said.
    “I was asked if I wanted them to be formally presented to me, and I said no, I didn’t, it was my family who wanted them.”
    Laurent Contini, the French ambassador to New Zealand, said: “I have deep admiration for her bravery and it will be with great honour that I will present her with the award of Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest decoration.”

    www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/11248032/Wartime-spy-finally-accepts-she-is-a-French-heroine.html
     
  6. Bernard85

    Bernard85 WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    good day.jedburgh22.very senior member.yesterday.10:55am.re:pippa latour to receive legion D'HONNER.a wonderfull and brave women.i think they left the presentation a bit late.and not giving awards to women who did what she did is an insult to her bravery.thank you for posting regards bernard85 :medalofhonor:
     
  7. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Climbing drainpipes, dining on rat and terrible guilt about the deaths of a German woman and her children: The extraordinary life of the VERY modest WWII spy as she receives France’s highest honour
    • Phyllis Latour Doyle was born to an English mother and French father
    • She was recruited by the secret services while training with RAF in 1941
    • As a 23-year-old she was parachuted into Nazi-occupied Normandy
    • She spent months sending 135 coded messages ahead of D-Day landings
    • The 93-year-old only revealed her past to her four children 15 years ago after her eldest son read something about her past online
    By DAVID WILKES FOR THE DAILY MAIL
    [SIZE=.9em]PUBLISHED:[/SIZE] 06:45, 25 November 2014 | [SIZE=.9em]UPDATED:[/SIZE] 04:29, 26 November 2014


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    She parachuted behind Nazi lines and risked her life gathering vital information on enemy positions ahead of the D-Day landings.
    British spy Phyllis Latour Doyle, then 23, toured occupied Normandy by bicycle disguised as a 14-year-old French girl selling soap to German soldiers.
    But hidden on pieces of silk among the brave young woman’s knitting were the secret codes used by the slightly-built agent – codename Paulette – to send back her messages to Allied Command.
    For decades after the war Mrs Doyle, known as Pippa, kept her extraordinary past hidden too, only telling her children 15 years ago.
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    French Ambassador to New Zealand Laurent Contini speaks to Phyllis (Pippa) Doyle before presenting her with France's highest honour award in Auckland on Tuesday



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    Mrs Doyle, 93, spied on German troops and risked her life to send 135 coded messages back to Britain during World War Two






    WWII spy Phyllis Latour Doyle receives France's highest honour


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    But yesterday the modest heroine, now 93 and living in a rest home in New Zealand, made a rare foray into the spotlight of public acclaim as she was presented in Auckland with the Legion of Honour, France’s highest award for bravery.





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    With a Parachute Regiment wings badge and honours including the MBE she was awarded after the war and France’s Croix de Guerre pinned to her cardigan, Mrs Doyle received the award from the French ambassador to New Zealand, Laurent Contini.
    ‘Pippa stands out as a formidable example for younger and older generations alike,’ he said. As part of its commemorations of the 70th anniversary of D-Day, France is recognising military veterans and civilians who fought in the Second World War.




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    'At the age of 21, she decided to join the resistance movement in a foreign country, held dangerous positions and undertook perilous missions to prepare the grounds for the allied troops to march on,' Mr Contini said



    Mr Contini said that when mother-of-four Mrs Doyle, who moved to Auckland in the 1970s, was told of her award she was ‘surprised that we have found her and said ‘‘but what did I do to merit that?’’’.
    What she did began when she joined the RAF to train as a flight mechanic in 1941 and the secret services spotted her potential. With an English mother and a French father, a doctor, she was fluent in French and was whisked away to be trained as one of the few women agents working for the Special Operations Executive.



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    Reluctant: Mrs Doyle said that she spent years hiding her wartime actions and only told her children about her vital role in the liberation 15 years ago. They encouraged her to request her medals, pictured above



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    Spy: While living in France in 1944, Mrs Doyle was known by the codename Paulette

    ‘I did it for revenge,’ she told New Zealand’s Army News magazine in 2009, explaining that she joined SOE because her godmother’s father was shot by the Germans and her godmother committed suicide after being imprisoned by them. As well as extensive physical fitness training, Mrs Doyle told in the rare interview how one of their instructors was ‘a cat burglar who had been taken out of prison to train us’.
    She said: ‘We learned how to get in a high window and down drainpipes, how to climb over roofs without being caught.’
    She first deployed in Aquitaine in Vichy France from 1942, then dropped into the Calvados area of Normandy on May 1, 1944, sleeping rough in forests or staying with Allied sympathisers.
    In total, she transmitted 135 secret messages to Britain via radio sets after linking up with the French Resistance.
    If she encountered the enemy she would ‘talk so much about anything and everything trying to be ‘‘helpful’’, and they’d get sick of me’. Mrs Doyle also told Army News how she once sent a message requesting a German listening post be taken out by bombers, but a German woman and two children died.
    ‘I heard I was responsible for their deaths. It was a horrible feeling,’ she said.
    ‘I can imagine the bomber pilots patting each other on the back and offering congratulations after a strike. But they never saw the carnage that was left. I always saw it, and I don’t think I will ever forget it.’
    After the war Mrs Doyle, who was born in South Africa, married an Australian engineer and lived for spells in Fiji and Australia before settling in New Zealand.
    Yesterday Mr Contini said Mrs Doyle ‘held dangerous positions and undertook perilous missions to prepare the grounds for the Allied troops to march on’ and told of his ‘deep admiration for her bravery and her unshakeable commitment to ending the war’.
    Mrs Doyle, who was helped by two of her sons, said nothing publicly beyond remarking that it was a ‘privilege and honour’ to receive the medal.




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    Speaking to Army News in 2009, Mrs Doyle said that she joined the SEO 'for revenge'. She explained that her godmother committed suicide after being taken prisoner by the Nazis and that her father was shot by the Germans




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    Bill Henry Apiata, a New Zealand war hero who recieved the Victoria Cross for New Zealand in 2007, speaks to Mrs Doyle after she recieved her Knight of the national Order of the Legion of Honour award




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    New Zealand's member of parliament Judith Collins and Mrs Doyle look at the award she received



    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2848355/France-awards-highest-honour-modest-WWII-spy-heroine.html#ixzz3K9B2x0bU
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  8. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    There are so many unsung Heroes and Heroines from WWII, that it is good that they receive the credit and Awards for their brave acts.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  9. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    The French seem much better at giving recognition than the British!!!
     
  10. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Steve,

    The British Government have always been backward at coming Forward with issuing medals.

    When they do it is usually too late for many!

    Regards
    Tom
     
  11. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    What a brilliant story, it should be made known more widely. An inspiration for young people.
     
  12. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    double post - sorry!
     

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