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Pearl Witherington

Pearl Witherington
Watercolor on 9″ x 12″ watercolor paper
The latest addition to the ‘She Changed the World’ collection!

Cecile Pearl Witherington (1914-2008) was an instrumental part of the French resistance during World War II. Raised in Paris by British parents, at an early age she had to learn how to do for herself due to her father being an alcoholic who blew the family’s money. She was employed by the British embassy in Paris when the Germans invaded in May 1940. She escaped with her family by the end of the year to London, where she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. Wanting to do more to fight the Nazis, she joined the Special Operations Executive in 1943.

Under the codename ‘Marie’, she was parachuted back into France in September of 1943 and posed as a cosmetics salesperson while actually serving as a courier for the SOE. After the Gestapo arrested her leader, she became the leader of the SOE for that area, known as the SOE Wrestler Network, now under the alias ‘Pauline’. With the help of her fiance Henri Cornioley, she reorganized the network and became a serious thorn to the Germans by destroying railway lines 800 times, killing around 1000 Nazis with few of their own casualties, and presiding over the surrender of 18,000 German troops.

After the war she married Henri and they had a daughter, Claire. She was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire and the Medal of the British Empire and the French National Order of the Legion of Honour. She was recommended for the Military Cross but was deemed ineligible since she was a woman.