She'd been born Cecile Pearl Witherington 93 years earlier in Paris, the daughter of a British family ruined by "[h]er father’s heavy drinking and spendthrift habits." By age 17 she was working as a part-time English teacher. The family fled to London when the Nazis invaded Paris in 1940. But soon after she joined the Special Operations Executive, or S.O.E., and was trained to work as an underground courier between Britain and the French Resistance.
Known to her family as Pearl, by code name as Wrestler, by nom de guerre as Pauline, and in wireless transmissions as Marie,
Ms. Cornioley, who was 29 when she was sent to France in 1943, commanded troops who killed 1,000 German soldiers and wounded many more — while suffering only a tiny number of casualties themselves. She presided over the surrender of 18,000 German troops.
After the war she worked as a secretary for the World Bank. She published her memoirs, a book entitled Pauline, in French; English excerpts here. She received many honors, but later in life (right) (photo credits) turned one down because it was aimed at civilians who'd helped Britain:
She sent an icy note saying she had had done nothing remotely 'civil.'