Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Amidst the Horror of War, There Was a Pearl

Pearl Cornioley, resistance fighter in World War II, past away last month at the age of 93. During the war, she served as a British Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) agent. According to a recent article in the New York Times:

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.

She was the Golden Age version of the Sidney Bristow character in Alias. Her birth name was Pearl, her code name was "Wrestler", her nom de guerre was "Pauline", and she was often referred to in reports as "Marie.” It has been suggested that she was the inspiration of the Sebastian Faulks novel Charlotte Gray, which was made into a film starring one of my favorite actresses - Cate Blanchett.

Ms. Cornioley received many honors, but the one that stuck in her mind was the one she turned down. That was Member of the British Empire, or M.B.E. She had been offered the civil version, not the military one.

She sent an icy note saying she had had done nothing remotely “civil.”

Possibly not "civil", but definitely heroic. Pearl Cornioley was a remarkable woman worthy of remembrance.

Special thanks to Mark Coale and Heidi MacDonald over at The Beat for posting the story and bringing it to my attention.

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