A World War II heroine who parachuted behind German lines on “perilous” spy missions, but was so modest she only told her children about it 15 years ago, was Tuesday presented with France’s highest honour.
British-born Phyllis (Pippa) Doyle, now 93 and living in New Zealand, was awarded the Chevalier de l’ordre national de la L㩧on d’Honneur, or Knight of the national Order of the Legion of Honour.
The French ambassador to New Zealand, Laurent Contini, who presented the award to Doyle at a military barracks in Auckland, praised her courage in spying on German movements ahead of the D-Day landings in 1944.
However, the modest Doyle is reluctant to talk about her wartime experiences and only revealed her past to her four children 15 years ago.
During the war, she joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE), a British organisation involved in espionage and sabotage in occupied Europe, after her godmother’s father was shot by the Nazis.
She spoke fluent French and on May 1, 1944, was parachuted into Normandy under the code name “Paulette”, where she spied on German troops and sent coded messages back to London.
Doyle has previously been awarded the Croix de Guerre and MBE (Member of the British Empire).
As part of commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of the battle of Normandy, France has undertaken a campaign of recognition of military veterans and civilians who fought in World War II.
Five other New Zealanders are to be appointed knights of the national order of the Legion of Honour at a later date.
Founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the Legion of Honour recognises distinguished military and civilian service to France.