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Shy British WWII spy heroine receives French Legion of Honour

media Founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the Legion of Honour recognises distinguished military and civilian service to France. AFP/Ria Novosti

A 93-year-old British woman was awarded France's highest honour on Tuesday for her perilous spying missions in German-occupied France in World War II.

British-born Pippa Doyle, who now lives in New Zealand, was parachuted behind German lines in a May 1944 but she was so modest that she did not tell her four children about it until 15 years ago.

Doyle was dropped into the Calvados region of Normandy in northern France on 1 May 1944, working under the code name "Paulette".

When she was just 21 Doyle, who spoke fluent French, joined the SOE, a British organisation involved in espionage in occupied Europe (SOE), and spied on German troops before sending coded messages to London.

"Pippa stands out as a formidable example for younger and older generations alike," the French ambassador to New Zealand Laurent Contini said on Thursday. 

"I have deep admiration for her bravery [...] and it will be with great honour that I present her with the award of Chevalier de l'ordre national de la Légion d'Honneur," he added.

Following the 70th anniversary of the battle of Normandy, a campaign of recognition of military veterans and civilians was launched and five other New Zealanders are to receive the French Légion d'Honneur.



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