Local war hero honoured
Seventy three years ago, Pippa Doyle parachuted into a field in occupied northern France as a covert special agent during World War II.
The west Auckland resident received the French Brevet Militaire de Parachutiste [French parachute wings] medal for her service at an award ceremony in Auckland on October 5.
Doyle, now 96, said she was honoured to be receiving ‘‘her wings’’ and they were very special to her. To an audience filled with military personnel, family and friends, Doyle, otherwise known as Phyllis Latour Doyle, recounted her landing in Normandy, France.
‘‘We were on our third tour waiting for a signal for me to land. None came. So we had to look for a field that had stock in it,’’ Doyle said.
Stock meant the field was safe as an empty field could be mined.
‘‘So we found a field that looked like it had a goat, and so that’s where I went in. That goat turned into a cow. And I’m terrified of horns. So, that was my landing in France.’’
French Ambassador Florence Jeanblanc-Risler, who presented the medal, said Doyle’s service was critical to the Normandy landings and the subsequent liberation of Europe.
Doyle, though 23 at the time, played on her diminutive size and biked around northern France posing as a teenage French girl. She sold soap to German soldiers and gathered information that she radioed back to the Allies, all the while pursued by Nazis who tracked her signals. Her codes were hidden on a piece of silk that she kept in her hair.
Doyle, who has been a member of the Swanson RSA for more than a decade, has already received a number of awards for her wartime service.
The awards included le´gion d’honneur in 2014, an MBE, the French Resistance Medal and the Croix de Guerre amongst others.
Doyle was born April 8, 1921, in South Africa. She was recruited by operatives from Britain’s Special Operations Executive at the age of 20, after joining the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in England as a flight mechanic.
Doyle stayed undercover in France till October 9, 1944.
After the war, Doyle lived in Kenya, then Fiji, then Australia before moving to Auckland, New Zealand in 1959 to raise her two sons.
War veteran Pippa Doyle previously met Victoria cross recipient Willie Apiata when she received France’s highest decoration: the Chevalier de I’Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur.