Pearl Witherington (far right), Henri Cornioley (third from left), and other French resisters who worked with them after D-Day.
Courtesy of Herve Larroque.
The Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France -- D-Day -- had finally come. Urgent orders had come from London to obstruct the roads to hinder German troops from getting to the Normandy coast, where the Allies had just landed. Pearl Witherington, an SOE agent, and the rural French maquis fighters she was working with had been very busy for two days following these orders, blocking the roads in their area with felled trees and large pieces of debris.
A young man who had just bicycled in from Paris, 80 miles northeast, was outside the gatehouse of the chateau property where Pearl and her team of maquis were living. Pearl questioned him about the condition of the roads to the north.
She was shocked by what he told her: the only obstructions he had seen were in their immediate area. None of the other networks had obeyed the order. The Germans, always trying to weed out bands of maquis, would certainly come looking for whoever had created these obstructions.
Two days later a low-flying reconnaissance plane (referred to by the maquis as the Snoop) flew over Pearl's area. Had the pilot seen them?
Apparently so . . .
Opening paragraphs of "Pearl Witherington: The Courier Who Became a Leader" from Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue.
Read Pearl's edited memoirs here.