Archive for the ‘Britain’ Category

Serena Frome “Sweet Tooth”

Posted: February 28, 2014 in Britain, Cold War Bunny, MI5
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Sweet_Tooth_(novel)I was very interested in reading this book as the author, Ian McEwan, has a long track record of writing interesting female characters, and 1970s Cold War London seemed an interesting setting for the novel.

“Sweet Tooth” chronicles Serena, a young British woman with a talent for math and a passion for reading, who is really nothing more than a consummate drifter. She drifts along in college, in and out of relationships, into a career with MI5 at the hand of an ex-lover who is really a traitor, drifts along her in her jobs duties, and eventually into a relationship with an asset of an anti-communist propaganda operation, the eponymous “Sweet Tooth”. 

Not unlike the United States at the time, during the 1970s, England’s national securities weren’t particularly great jobs for the ladies who often were little more than secretaries. Serena follows this same path until she is pulled into this operation where security services seeks to anonymously sponsor talented authors, who in turn, hopefully write about the glories of a capitalistic society. 

Serena is chosen for her prolific knowledge of literature and probably because she described as tall, blond, and not bad to look at. She poses as an agent of an arts foundation, nabs an up and coming author, and promptly begins an affair with him.

However, Serena isn’t particularly good at juggling the secret life of her job (yawn) against her personal life (double yawn). Really, this plot device is so played out when it comes to female characters, that if it weren’t for McEwan’s gorgeous writing, I would have stopped reading fairly early on in the novel.

In the end, Serena is found out, loses her job, and seems to have lost the guy. At this point in the story, you realize you don’t really know Serena particularly well. This is either because she comes across as being not very self-aware, which is understandable as she isn’t a very deep character to begin with, or it is just a fault of poor writing. However, this is Ian McEwan, master of the unforeseen ending, which I will not devolve here, but let me just say that it is, technically, a fault of poor writing, just not McEwan’s. …I’ll leave it to you to read and figure it out…

It’s a shame, really. Such a fascinating subject shouldn’t be reduced to a romance novel, which is what has occurred here. Secretaries have enormous potential in this genre, what with the amount of confidential material that passes through their hands, and the tendency men had/have to overlook the intelligence of the woman who fetches their coffee…

Still, it’s beautiful writing but hardly a spynovel. Enjoy. Or not.

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Definitely not a spy, but this monarch held an even better title, one of “Spymistress”.

Americans tend to have this idea about England, where the country seems to preternaturally have its act together, however, not many Yanks know that at one time, The Great Empire once existed in a state of near chaos.

Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603) was the second daughter of the notorious King Henry the VIII, the chap who had a penchant for food and executing his wives, and the only child of Anne Boleyn, the King’s second wife who had her head lobbed off when Elizabeth was but a toddler.

Tons of intrigue and no small amount of scandal later, Elizabeth ascended to the throne at the age of twenty-five. She inherited a country with a warring feudal system, a slew of relatives who would possibly like to see her dead, a state of enmity with the Catholic Church that definitely wanted to see her dead, poor relations with neighboring countries, and empty coffers (i.e. England was close to being broke if it wasn’t already). The country, quite simply, was a mess.

Enter Elizabeth, young, beautiful, female, single. We all the know the story: the young queen must marry appropriately, secure a male child, which in turn secures the line of ascension, and preferably said marriage should be with either a Spaniard or a Frenchman so at least one of those countries would be off England’s back.

However, Good Queen Bess wasn’t having it. Whether it was the sterling example of her father, the rumored romance with a certain Lord Robert Dudley, the rumors of her being a man, or whatever, Elizabeth married herself to England and blazed forth what would be known as England’s Golden Age.

And the Golden Age really came about because QBI was exceptionally good at threat management and maintaining stability. Forces within France and Spain saw England as weak while forces within her country saw her as weak.  Ireland and the Catholic Church quite simply saw the queen as a threat to salvation and agreed she had to go. The task at hand, holding  England together, was a lot like juggling and Elizabeth certainly had a lot of balls in the air. She wielded the very idea of marriage like a tool of both domestic and foreign policy. She brought some semblance of organization to the Anglican church by firmly aligning it to the Protestantism. And she certainly kept close tabs on her foes through her excellent appointment of advisers.

Elizabeth’s inner circle helped her manage both domestic threats and threats from abroad. William Cecil, Baron of Burghley ran a tight financial ship and was responsible for bringing Sir Frances Walsingham, the father of modern-day intelligence practices, to the queen’s court.

With Walsingham in place, the queen was able to acquire the necessary domestic and foreign intelligence for decision-making. Walsingham infiltrated the Spanish military, secured the evidence for the execution of Elizabeth’s greatest rival, Mary Queen of Scots, and foiled any number of plots instituted by nasties within the realm.

All the while, Elizabeth and Walsingham had quite a contentious relationship. He was plain-spoken to the point of being blunt, a literal man of action, and while she had her hide to protect, Walsingham on more than one occasion offended her royal sensibilities.  But he did his job and did it well. It’s very hard to dislike a man who saves your neck day-in to day-out.

All this risk management allowed the queen to enjoy nearly a half-century on the throne. Quite a feat considering that at the end, Elizabeth died an unmarried woman, England’s future secured and a smooth transition of power to King James VI.

George Washington often stands out as the historical figure who best managed the spy trade, but he certainly never had to deal with the level of difficulty, treachery, nor had as many enemies painting targets on his back as Elizabeth had. Under close scrutiny, Elizabeth’s reign was not a rousing success, but in an era where it was exceptionally easy to die on the throne, managing to keep your enemies at bay for 45 years certainly says something about a dame’s, pardon me, queen’s acumen.

Marina Lee

Posted: September 1, 2010 in Abwehr, Blame a Dame, Britain, Espionage, MI5, Undercover, WWII

There’s all sort of animal, vegetable and mineral that fall under the umbrella of “Nazi”. I’ve seen Nazi clowns, Nazi dogs, Soup Nazis, and Nazi film-makers; but I’m going to be honest here, the very idea of a Nazi ballerina comes pretty close to taking the proverbial cake.

The broo-ha-ha erupted this past week upon the declassification of WWII documents from British security services and then vomited all over the Web about this Tiny Dancer being responsible for the British defeat in Norway in 1940.

HOWEVER, let’s ask the obvious question here: Fact or Fiction? Base or Baseless? Less Filling or Tastes Great?

Is the story being spread around the globe about Marina Lee the real deal or this just another episode of our favorite show Blame-A-Dame?

Here’s what we know: Lee was born in Russia during the revolution, her parents were killed by the Bolsheviks, she was a trained dancer, she fled to Norway where she married and taught at a dance school. It’s easy to see why she is targeted in this scenario. She spoke 5 languages, she was decidedly beautiful, being a dancer provided her with excellent cover, and also, back in the day a dancer was more akin to being a “loose woman” so it afforded a determined spy a little more access to those in vulnerable positions.

But none if this is what anyone would call proof. The conjecture that is being bandied about is that Lee bamboozled strategic plans by the Brits out of a General Auchenlik and then slipped them to a German agent. Presto-change-o the Brits lose Norway to the Nazis.

But here’s the rub: this is neither proven nor dis-proven, hence the term conjecture, and in the weighing of evidence, the accusation does not hold. The BBC report on this story bears the headline: Blond Nazi ballerina ’caused war set back’ which let’s admit, is spicy stuff, but the first line of the article goes on to read that: secret government paper suggestThis is a far cry from stating “that beyond a shadow of a doubt this dame ratted us out.”

Google “Nazi Ballerina” and you’ll come up with hundreds of articles, most of them supporting the “validity” of the tale. This little gem by journalist Guy Walters points out the obvious “junkiness” of the evidence. Thank.You.Guy! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I have no problem calling a spade a spade but let’s make sure we’re first actually dealing with shovels and not wheelbarrows.

Is it worth examining why these tales of female agents capture the imagination so forcefully? On one hand, the conditioned response harkens back to traditional stereotypes would have you believe that women are soft and fragile, noble and righteous. While other stereotypes play off the seemingly innate fear men have over beautiful broads thus the gorgeous Spy Dame is the epitome of all that is dark and dangerous about the mysterious female form. In the end, we deal with the same gender issues that have plagued society for years and they all seem to center around women either being the Madonna or the prostitute.

We saw this nastiness arise earlier this summer in a subject I am loathe to mention: Anna Chapman, alleged agent in the Russian Spy Ring that was busted in the US earlier this summer. While everyone talks about the “flame-haired“, “femme fatale“, “great-in-bedness” of Chapman, does anyone stop to consider the story? Taken into consideration, she really comes off as a spoiled diplomat-brat-mail-order-bride who minored in real estate and majored in partying. During the set-up for her take-down, she was handed, by undercover Feds, a passport to deliver and Chapman called her daddy to ask what she should do (daddy’s response was to turn the passport in to the police). Hardly the acts of a trained Spy Dame! Seriously, Virginia Hall is rolling over in her grave.

But the point is this: all of that detail is lost in the flame-haired-femme-fatale-great-in-bedness of the story…well, that and the pictures of her in a tiara

So let’s get back to Blond Nazi Ballerina at hand…Marina Lee: Spy Dame or Dame Blamed?

Millicent Jessie Eleanor Bagot (1907-2006) could smell a rat at twenty paces and had an illustrious career as one of the UK’s premier spy hunters and what we now call Whistleblowers.

The last decade has been full of Dame Whistleblowers so we should pay particular attention to the woman who made a career of sniffing out the phonies amongst us.

Bagot began her life as the daughter of a solicitor, raised by a French governess, and was later educated at Oxford’s Lady Margaret Hall where she studied the Classics. Bagot went to work for the special branch of the Metro police and later moved on to England’s Ministry of Defense working for both MI5 and MI6. This is slim pickings for developing a profile of Millie, and maybe her early life wasn’t as interesting as her career, but it sure would be great to know what made this lady tick.

Bagot the career lady, however, was a lad’s worst nightmare back in the day: a competent female taskmaster with an opinion and a voice. Apparently someone had the good sense to think that such traits recommended her and so Bagot began to move up the ranks.

Bagot specialized in Communism and was a well-regarded Sovietologist. She was the first to warn Intel community that notorious MI6 English double-agent, Kim Philby, was a member of the communist party and not who he appeared to be. She was ignored, of course, but despite Philby’s escape to Moscow in 1963, I hope Millie felt some small measure of satisfaction in knowing she was right.

Bagot was the first woman to reach the rank of Assistant Secretary at MI5. She received the MBE in 1949 for service and later advanced to CBE in 1967 at her retirement. Famed director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover, even wrote to Millicent expressing his admiration.

However, even in retirement, Bagot did not call it a day. With her exceptional memory and famed ability at finding patterns in massive amounts of information, she continued working part-time sniffing out active spies and also writing what some call the definitive account of the Zinoviev Affair.

Millicent finally called it quits in 1976, after a debilitating stroke claimed her prized memory and left her infirmed for the rest of her life. A sad and drawn-out end for such an amazing woman with a truly brilliant career.

muriel_byck_00_photo_tnSOE agent,  Muriel Byck (1981-1944), reminds us that while war may be a messy business, it is quite literally, also a dirty and germy business as well.

Muriel was born to French Jews in London although she was primarily raised on the continent, first Germany, then later, France. Muriel appears to have bounced back and forth between England and France for college and university, but eventually settled in England  in the mid-1930’s.

Byck took on a number of different jobs, none too remarkable. She worked in a theater, then as a Red Cross volunteer, and later a secretary. The secretarial work seemed to lead into war-related work as she also became an Air Raid Precautions warden.

Muriel then transitioned into the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and was promoted to an officer position. Naturally, Muriel spoke excellent French so it wasn’t too far a jump for her to eventually be recruited for the Special Operations Executive.

After training and three abortive attempts to jump into France, Muriel (Codename: Violette) arrived April 9, 1944. She performed duties as a wireless operator and trained local talent for the task.

Needless to say, the usually activities of evading German detection by moving around from time to time while working one’s tail off to aid the war effort takes its toll on anyone. However, a little over a month in country and Muriel began exhibiting signs of serious illness. She collapsed in the field and a doctor working for the Resistance diagnosed her with meningitis, a serious disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.

muriel_byck_01_photo_tnThe problem here, is that the Germans kept sharp tabs on hospital patients, so just traipsing in the door was out of the question and sneakier means became necessary. Muriel was admitted as the niece of her uncle (read: supervisor), both of whom were evacuees from Paris. Muriel was finally admitted to a hospital but it was too late. Not six weeks after landing in France,  Muriel Byck, aged 25,  died in the arms of her supervisor.

The local population of Romarantin, France, where Byck was laid to rest,  heralded her passing as a heroine of the Resistance and commemorated the anniversary of her death  until she was moved to the Pornic War Cemetery, the burial grounds for many British servicemen who died during the war.

miss_moneypenny_by_lois_maxwellIf you are not up on your James Bond trivia, Miss Moneypenney was Bond’s “Girl Friday”. She’s been missing from the Blond Bond films as of late, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed hoping for her reappearance. During her long career in Bond films, Moneypenney has been played several actresses such as: Lois Maxwell, Caroline Bliss, Samantha Bond, Barbara Bouchet, and Pamela Salem.

Jane Moneypenney served as the assistant to the veritable “M”, and although the flirtation between the two did not exist in any of Ian Fleming’s books, Moneypenney is known to filmgoers for her verbal sparring/flirting with rascal known as 007. And while there’s a certain endearing comic relief to the character, she certainly is not as interesting as the dames who inspired her.

As with all things Ian Fleming, Monneypenney actually has a basis in real life. In this case, it appears that Moneypenney is speculated to have been based on either a single person or is a conglomeration of the many women in Fleming’s life. So let’s run down the suspects:

Kathleen Pettigrew: the formidable (read: terrifying) assistant to MI6 director, Stewart Menzies, during and after WWII, who can best be described as a “…grey-haired lady with the square jaw of the battleship type”.

Vera Atkins, (one of our favorite SOE dames) who was technically an assistant to Colonel Maurice Buckmaster (one the reported inspirations for “M”, Bond’s boss), but Atkins was a damn important figure in her own right.

Another possible candidate is Margaret Priestley who administered the 30 Commando Assault Unit during WWII (think Navy Seals with some serious Intel collection training). She actually shied away form any public connection to Ian Fleming and the Bond character of Moneypenney.

Other likely candidates are either Jean Frampton, the dear lady who typed Ian Fleming’s manuscripts and whom  apparently never met the man (although their letters to each other recently fetched a pretty penny at auction), and finally, Joan Bright Astley whom Fleming dated during WWII. Astley was the dame who organized the Special Information Center for Winston Churchill during the war and was also renowned for her “social skills” with high ranking officers.

So who is the real Miss Moneypenney? Your guess is as good as mine, but honestly, the moon-eyed secretary doesn’t strike any resemblance to the hard-core dames of the British Intel community, and given the sappy love-struck secretary of the Bond films, if I was one of the reported ladies of inspiration for the character, I’d distance myself far from her.

Leave no man behind. You’ve heard it, I’ve heard, it’s in just about a every war movie of the 20th century. But what we’re talking about here is slightly different. In Intel, especially covert ops, sometimes someone does get left behind, it’s the very nature of the game, but what’s more important is that those who get left behind are not forgotten.

Vera Atkins (1908-2000), for lack of a better description, was a sort of Den Mother to the British Spy outfit known as the Special Operations Executive (and a precursor to MI6). But when the war ended and all of Europe was trying to make nice with each other by sweeping all that prior nastiness under the rug, it was Vera’s single-minded determination that led to the discovery of what had happened to the SOE agents who had disappeared into the wilds of Europe during WWII.

Vera was born to a Jewish family in Bucharest, Romania in 1908, but moved to England in 1933. She attended The Sorbonne in Paris where studied modern languages. Vera returned to England in 1944 where she joined the F-Section (‘F’ for France) of the SOE as an intelligence officer.

Vera briefed agents going into the field and debriefed them coming out. An agent’s return provided valuable information on the latest goings-on on the war front which greatly aided in briefing the agents heading into that zone. For example, this is the dame who would tell you not to order creme fraiche with your coffee in France because it hadn’t been available for over a year. Little details like that could preserve your cover and save your hide.

Actually, Vera was not above patting down agents to look for a stray piece of anything that might reveal their English identity. This bird, however, was a master of finessing an agent with enough items of French origin so as to further aid their mission: a Paris Metro tickets planted in a pocket, a stamped letter from “relatives” in the country, Vera knew to make sure that every detail was perfect prior to sending her agents out into the field.

And there really was no aspect of F-Section that Vera wasn’t involved in. She had a say in recruitment, training, and who went where. She saw agents off to the airfield where they would soon being parachuting into France. She also took care of their lives at home, contacting relatives, providing cover stories during an agent’s absence, even helping agents to draw up wills should they not return from their missions. Vera knew every agent going into the field, and they damn well knew her.

After the war’s end, 118 agents from the SOE still had not returned from the field. Since SOE basically ceased to exist after the war, Vera did not have official permission to track these agents down. And this is where things get interesting.

A very important, and often seldom accomplished, part of the intelligence cycle is feedback. In the case of a covert op, that feedback comes in the form of debriefing upon an agent’s return. When an agent does not return, if no one sees to it to discover that agent’s fate, then you really have no way of knowing/assessing what went wrong, what went right, and what possibly needs to change. Fluke things happen that derail an op, but if there was poor Intel going into the mission, you have no way of knowing unless you get the opportunity to ask.

And hey, there’s the human factor after all. Vera was the lifeline for 400 agents going out into the field. She had to know them better than some of their families. In the fog of war, it’s easy for people to disappear. Vera was determined to clear the air and find out what happened to those missing agents.

It was then that Vera joined the Women’s Auxilary Air Force (WAAF) and on a self-appointed mission, spent three months criss-crossing Europe tracking down the missing.

She returned having learned the whereabouts of 117.

Atkins continued working until she was demobilized in 1947 where she retired to the countryside. She died in 2000 at the age of 92.

I’ve been a little loathe to write of Elizabeth “Betty” Thorpe Pack (1910-1963), famous WWII Spy-Dame, for the simple reason that she is too closely associated with a term this Agent truly dislikes: Sexpionage.

Sexpionage, quite simply, is a practice attributed to the dames who use those other “womanly charms” to get the intel or finish the op. This term is regularly and incorrectly attributed to ladies in the know,  just like the name “Mata Hari”.  And while this Agent won’t dispute the reality or even the necessity of utilizing such extreme methods to get a job done, this Agent does take issue with such methods garnering Ms. Pack the moniker of “Greatest Female Spy” because of them.

Okay, so here we go: Betty-Boop was born in Minneapolis, the daughter of a career Military man. Betty was a broad who, at a very early age, like to play the field. She was well educated and a striking beauty with her red hair and green eyes. She became the Paris Hilton of her day prowling the socialite circuit until she found herself knocked-up at 21 and set to marry a dull, British, embassy man twice her age.

Life wasn’t all bad as her husband’s career took her abroad to Chile, Spain, Poland, where she apparently continued to play the field. Around such time, Betty was put on the British payroll as a spy and set up to capture her first target: a Polish Prime Minister with access to the code-breaking work on the Enigma machine.

When war broke out, Betty found herself back on home turf where she was further recruited by the British (remember, the US was still neutral at this point) to set up shop in Washington DC. Her task was to obtain Italian naval codes from a certain sailor at the Italian Embassy. Betty employed her “usual methods” and voila! the Italian battle fleet is hitting skids.

Next up: Vichy France and their cipher codes. Betty set her sights on Charles Brousse, French Embassy Press Officer in order to gain access to the French Embassy in DC. She began a passionate affair with Brousse (a married person not unlike Betty, it’s easy to forget about that fact). Brousse was “turned” by the enticement of money, his dislike of Germans, and apparently Betty’s charms. The intel flowed into British hands but the cipher books were proving difficult to obtain and despite Betty’s “best efforts” with other men in the embassy, she unable to get them into the hands of the Brits.

A last ditch effort to obtain the books involved Brousse and Betty working in tandom over several nights at the French Embassy with a safe cracker. Guards were paid, others drugged, and the pinnacle event was while the safe cracker was doing his deed, Betty and Brousse engaged in the deed themselves, in flagrante delicato no less, in order to thwart discovery of their true activities when a security guard happened into the room they were in at the embassy.

So, of course, after all that hooplah, the codes were obtained. Pearl Harbor went down, America ended its neutrality, and we can all pretty much remember what happened after that.

After the war, Brousse divorced his wife and Betty’s long forgotten husband committed suicide leaving Betty and Brousse free to marry, which they did. Betty pack died in 1963 of throat cancer at the age of 53.

So what do we take away from all of this? Perhaps an argument about what makes a successful spy versus what makes a great spy? Betty was certainly successful and the intel was important, but do you compare that to the exploits of Hall, Szabo, Cornioley, and the host of other dames being dropped out of airplanes, wrangling ammo, sending secret communiques, waging war, and generally risking their lives? Does a broad using sex as her tradecraft really equate a “great” spy?

I’m not trying to undermine Betty’s accomplishments because to a certain extent we are comparing apples and radiators, but tallying up this skirt’s love of adventure and promiscuity, both of which seemed to have fueled her actions, makes this Agent glad for one thing:

That Betty Pack was on our side.

In the intermingled histories of Dames in War, you no sooner research one skirt when another comes to light. So to continue with the apparently British Babes theme that is currently in play, Violette Bushell Szabo (1921-1945) represents one of the more tragic figures of WWII.

Violette was born in Paris to a French mother and a British father. She was raised in England and at the start of the Big One, she was working at a perfume counter. Hardly representative of the adventures this gal was about to embark upon.

Violette met Etienne Szabo, a Frenchman of Hungarian descent, and after a zam-pow courtship, they married a short 42 days later. Violette was 19 years old. Etienne was sent to fight in Northern Africa while Violette was left behind where she went to work for the Auxilary Territorial Service and to gave birth to their only child, Tania. Tragically, Etienne was killed in battle in 1942, never once having seen his daughter.

This event provoked a profound change in Violette. She offered her services to the British Special Operations Executive where she met considerable resistance (much like the kind Pearl Cornioley encountered), but was cleared for service and was parachuted into France in 1944.

Codename “Louise”, Violette went to town reorganizing a fractured French Resistance network that went kablooey at the hands of the Germans. This sprite of a girl led her men to sabotage roads and bridges while Violette herself radioed back to the British important Allied bombing targets. Violette returned to England a short 25 days later, her first mission a resounding success.

Violette returned to the Limoges region of France in June with the mission to disrupt communications lines of the Germans. Violette was captured when her car encountered and unexpected roadblock and she ran out of ammo during a consequent gun fight. She was taken to prison, moved repeatedly about the country, and endured obscene amounts of torture in effort to get her to rat-out her comrades which she never did.

An SOE rescue attempt missed Violette by a mere 2 hours when in late August 1944, Violette was transported to the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp.

Violette Bushell Szabo was executed sometime during the early part of February 1945. She was shot in the back of the neck alongside two other female SOE agents. A female French section agent imprisoned in the camp later reported of Violette’s demise. Her remains were incinerated in the camp’s crematorium. She was just 23 years old.

23 Years old. It’s hard to get your head around the feats of this young dame. Most 23 year olds this Agent knows are too wrapped up in their nightlife, chasing guys, and celebrity gossip.

But Violette was of a different ilk and a different era. In our time of war, a war that is so far removed from our shores, it’s difficult to imagine the sacrifices some broads have made for the sake of better world.

In 1946, Tania Szabo, Violette and Etienne Szabo’s surviving daughter (pictured left), received the George Cross, posthumously awarded to her mother who was only the second woman to have received the honor. In 1950, seven year old Tania also received the Croix de Guerre from France for Violette’s heroism.

You gotta hand it to the British Broads of WWII. This Agent is losing track of exactly how many stories there are of the dames being deposited behind enemy lines via parachute where they raised all sorts of covert-hell. Pearl Witherington Cornioley (1914-2008) is yet another one of these stories.

Pearl, although a British subject, was born and raised in France until such time the Germans invaded in 1940 and she fled to London with her family. Pearl took on a number of jobs to assist in the war effort and eventually went to work for the Air Ministry. Not happy sitting a desk job, this dame volunteered for the SOE in 1943 where she garnered mixed reviews from the critics. On one hand, she seemed to have lacked the “personality” to be a “real leader”. On the other hand, the dame was the best sharpshooter the service had ever seen, either male or female, and apparently was pretty comfortable being dropped out of perfectly good airplane.

Despite any doubts her superiors may have had, Pearl was sent to the southern Loire region in France and worked as a courier for the local resistance until their leader was captured and shipped off to the friendly neighborhood Concentration Camp. Pearl took over the unit of local farmers and is noted for having whipped the group into prime shape. During her time there, Pearl and her men disrupted a train line to Paris no less than 800 times . Also the broad who was assumed to have “lacked” the ability to lead, led her rag-tag farmers to disrupt German D-Day communications and oversaw the the surrender of no less that 18,000 German troops…effectively putting to end any further doubts regarding Pearl’s ability to lead, one should think.

After the war, Pearl married and waged her own war against the British government for failing to properly recognize her efforts. As a woman, Pearl was ineligible to receive the Military Cross and the government instead tried to bestow upon her the MBE, a civilian honor to which Pearl replied that there was “nothing civil” about her actions during the war and rejected the award.

In a 1945 letter from Pearl to the Powers That Be:

“I am honoured that the British Government should wish to decorate me, but I consider the MBE as inappropriate and do not wish to accept it. The work was of a purely military nature in enemy-occupied country. When the time for open warfare came we planned and executed open attacks on the enemy. I spent a year in the field and had I been caught I would have been shot or, worse still, sent to a concentration camp. I do consider it most unjust to be given a civilian decoration. Our training, which we did with the men, was purely military, and as women we were expected to replace them in the field. I was responsible for the training and organisation of nearly 3,000 men for guerrilla warfare. The men have received military decorations, why this discrimination with women? Precedence? When I undertook my duties in the field I did not take into consideration the fact that my mission had no precedent.”

Go ahead and argue against that! I dare you.

Not surprisingly, Pearl eventually got her way and her proper accolades and died peacefully this last February at the ripe of age of 93 in her beloved France.