WELLINGTON (AFP) – A World War II heroine who parachuted behind German lines on “perilous” spy missions, but was so modest she only told her children about it 15 years ago, was Tuesday presented with France’s highest honour.
British-born Pippa Doyle, now 93 and living in New Zealand, was awar-ded the Chevalier de l’ordre national de la Legion d’Honneur, or Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honour.
The French ambassador to New Zealand, Laurent Contini, who pre-sented the award to Doyle at a military barracks in Auckland, praised her courage in spying on German movements ahead of the D-Day landings in 1944.
However, the modest Doyle is reluctant to talk about her wartime experiences and only revealed her past to her four children 15 years ago.
During the war, she joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE), a British organisation involved in espionage and sabotage in occupied Europe, after her godmother’s father was shot by the Nazis.
She spoke fluent French and on May 1, 1944, was parachuted into Normandy under the code name “Paulette”, where she spied on German troops and sent coded messages back to London.
“Pippa stands out as a formidable example for younger and older ge-nerations alike,” Contini said.
“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.
“I have deep admiration for her bravery and her unshakable commit-ment to ending the war and it will be with great honour that I present her with the award of Chevalier de l’ordre national de la Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest decoration.”