Caroline Moorehead

Buckmaster’s Girls

She Landed by Moonlight: The Story of Secret Agent Pearl Witherington

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Hodder & Stoughton 421pp £20 order from our bookshop

The Secret Ministry of Ag. & Fish: My Life in Churchill’s School for Spies

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Macmillan 304pp £20 order from our bookshop

‘This student, though a woman,’ wrote an officer assessing Pearl Witherington’s application to join the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in 1943, ‘possesses a strong and rather dominating personality. Very capable, completely brave.’ She needed all the toughness she could muster. Women were not generally regarded as suitable by SOE’s largely Oxbridge recruiters, whose view of the female sex remained mired in Victorian niceties. What was more remarkable than her eventual appointment as agent was the fact that she survived: of the 39 women who infiltrated France between 1941 and 1944, 13 did not return.

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