Phyllis Latour

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Phyllis Latour
Nickname(s) Genevieve
Born (1921-04-08) 8 April 1921 (age 97)
Durban, South Africa
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch WAAF, Special Operations Executive, French Resistance
Years of service 1941–1944
Rank Field agent
Commands held Scientist

Phyllis "Pippa" Latour (born 8 April 1921) MBE, was a heroine of the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War.

Early life[edit]

Latour's father, Philippe, was a French doctor and married to Louise, a British citizen living in South Africa, where Phyllis was born in 1921. Her father died three months later in French Equatorial Africa (AEF) and her mother remarried three years later. Her stepfather was a racing driver, and would let his new wife race his automobiles as well. During one such race, her mother's car malfunctioned and she was killed when the car crashed into a barrier. Latour then went to live with her father's cousin in the AEF. She later returned to South Africa.[1]

WAAF and Special Operations Executive[edit]

She moved from South Africa to England and joined the WAAF in November 1941 (Service Number 718483) as a flight mechanic for airframes—But she was immediately asked to become a spy, and went through vigorous mental and physical training. She joined the SOE in revenge for her godmother's father having been shot by the Nazis and for her godmother's suicide after being imprisoned,[1] officially joining on 1 November 1943 and was commissioned as an Honorary Section Officer.

She parachuted into Orne, Normandy on 1 May 1944 to operate as part of the Scientist circuit, using the codename Genevieve to work as a wireless operator with the organiser Claude de Baissac and his sister Lisé (the courier).[2][page needed]

Small of stature, Latour, who was fluent in French, posed as a teenage girl whose family had moved to the region to escape the Allied bombing. She rode bicycles around the area, selling soap and chatting with German soldiers. When she obtained any military intelligence, she encoded it for transmitting using one-time codes that were hidden on a piece of silk that she used to tie up her hair. At one point, she was brought in for questioning, but the German authorities did not think to examine her hair tie, and she was released.[1]

Post World War II[edit]

After World War II, Latour married an engineer with the surname Doyle, and went to live in Kenya (East Africa),[3] Fiji, and Australia. She now lives in Auckland, New Zealand.[4]

She did not discuss her wartime activities with her family until her children discovered them by reading about them on the Internet in 2000.[1]

Honours and awards[edit]

Latour was appointed a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour (Knight of the Legion of Honour), by the French government on 29 November 2014, as part of the 70th anniversary of the battle of Normandy.[5][6]

Order of the British Empire (Military) Ribbon.png Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)[1]
39-45 Star BAR.svg 1939–45 Star
France and Germany Star BAR.svg France and Germany Star
Defence Medal BAR.svg Defence Medal (United Kingdom)
War Medal 39-45 BAR.svg War Medal 1939–1945
Croix de Guerre 1939-1945 ribbon.svg Croix de guerre 1939–1945 (France)[1]
Legion Honneur Chevalier ribbon.svg Legion of Honour (France)[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Field, Michael (25 November 2014). "Pippa's astonishing story recognised". Stuff. Retrieved 15 June 2017. 
  2. ^ Squadron Leader Beryl E. Escott, Mission Improbable: A salute to the RAF women of SOE in wartime France, London, Patrick Stevens Limited, 1991.
  3. ^ Liane Jones, A Quiet Courage: Women Agents in the French Resistance, London, Transworld Publishers Ltd, 1990. ISBN 0-593-01663-7
  4. ^ Field, Michael (23 November 2014). "World War II top spy living in Auckland". Stuff. Retrieved 28 November 2014. 
  5. ^ "WWII heroine Pippa Doyle receives France's highest honour - WAR HISTORY ONLINE". WAR HISTORY ONLINE. 
  6. ^ Legion of Honour,, 25 November 2014


External links[edit]