Code Name Pauline

Memoirs of a World War II Special Agent

By Pearl Witherington Cornioley; Kathryn J. Atwood (Editor)
(Chicago Review Press, Hardcover, 9781613744871, 208pp.)

Publication Date: August 2013

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In 1943 a British Special Operations Executive (SOE) report called agent-in-training Pearl Witherington “cool and resourceful and extremely determined” and “the best shot, male or female, we have yet had.” Soon after, 29-year-old Witherington parachuted into Nazi-occupied France and posed as a traveling cosmetics saleswoman to make her way around the country as an SOE courier. When the leader of her network was caught by the Gestapo, she became “Pauline” and rose to command a 3,500-strong band of French Resistance fighters. She went on to become one of the most celebrated female agents in SOE history.


In Code Name Pauline Witherington’s remarkable story is told in her own words. In a series of reminiscences she describes her difficult childhood and harrowing escape from France in 1940, her recruitment and training as a special agent, the logistics and dangers of working as an undercover courier, failed and successful attempts at sabotaging the Nazis, and much more. Editor Kathryn J. Atwood provides helpful context and background on the SOE and the French Resistance. Also included are an annotated list of key figures; an appendix of original, unedited interview extracts; and previously unpublished photographs and documents.

About the Author

Pearl Witherington Cornioley joined the Special Operations Executive in 1943 and worked with the French Resistance as an undercover courier and later, under the code name “Pauline,” as a network leader of 3,500 men. She was instrumental in the carrying out of numerous acts of sabotage during World War II. Kathryn J. Atwood is the author of Women Heroes of World War II. She has contributed to Midwest Book Review;;; and War, Literature, and the Arts.

Praise For Code Name Pauline

“Told in ‘Pauline’s’ own no-nonsense words, this is an eye-opening look at what life was really like for a secret agent fighting in occupied France.” —Steve Sheinkin, award-winning author of Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon

“Pearl’s appealingly personal account is moving, thrilling and humbling all at once. . . . ‘Never lose hope, never give in,’ is her fierce message to young readers. Code Name Pauline is both a shining tribute to the real and ordinary people whose relentless determination brought about an end to Nazi oppression in Europe, and an inspiration for future generations.” —Elizabeth Wein, author of the award-winning Code Name Verity

Code Name Pauline is the real deal—a treasure trove of primary source material.” —Margi Preus, author of the Newbery Honor–winning Heart of a Samurai and Shadow of the Mountain

“A must-read, not only for anyone fascinated by the underground war in France, but also for anyone who admires bravery and ingenuity in the face of evil.” — Brendan Foley, coauthor of Under the Wire

“Young adults and adults will be fascinated to read this memoir detailing a piece of neglected World War II history.” —Doreen Rappaport, author of the award-winning Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust

“A wonderfully vivid and engaging account. [I] loved it.” —Alex Kershaw, author of The Longest Winter: The Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of WWII’s Most Decorated Platoon

“Pearl Witherington’s fascinating memoir provides a concise yet illuminating account of some of SOE’s audacious activities in occupied France during World War II. Ideal for younger readers, or those new to the subject.” —Roger Moorhouse, author of Berlin at War and Killing Hitler

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