World War II top spy living in Auckland
A 93-year-old woman living quietly in an Auckland rest home has been revealed as one of the bravest spies of World War II.
On Tuesday Phyllis Latour Doyle – Pippa to her friends - will be bestowed with France's highest decoration for what she did 70 years ago.
And for the English born woman, the honour is also bringing out her largely unknown story.
The Telegraph in Britain reported she has remained in the shadows; "a reluctant heroine with an astonishing past".
She was parachuted into France to get information on German positions and on one mission, into Normandy, she played a crucial role in the D-Day landings.
The Telegraph says Doyle received an MBE for her bravery but nothing else was done.
She only told her four children of her mission 15 years ago.
Doyle was with the Special Operations Executive (SOE).
Her father was a French doctor and she was fluent.
She told New Zealand Army News five years ago – her only known interview – that she was given training and then told she had three days to think about joining the SOE.
"I told them I didn't need three days to make a decision; I'd take the job now."
She said she did it in revenge for her godmother's father who had been shot by the Nazis.
She first went into Aquitaine in Vichy France from 1942 and was dropped behind enemy lines under a new code name, Paulette, into the Calvados region of Normandy on May 1, 1944.
Aged 23, she had the identity of a poor 14-year-old French girl to make the Germans less suspicious.
She used bicycles to tour the area, passing information through coded messages.
The Germans tried listening to find her position and at one stage she asked the Allies to bomb a German listening post. She discovered that in doing so a German woman and two children died.
"I heard I was responsible for their deaths. It was a horrible feeling," she said, "I later attended the funeral of a grandmother, her daughter and her two grandchildren, knowing I had indirectly caused their deaths."
After the war Doyle lived in Kenya, Fiji, Australia and eventually New Zealand.
She will receive her honour on Tuesday from French Ambassador Laurent Contini at a ceremony at an Auckland military base.
"I have deep admiration for her bravery and it will be with great honour that I will present her with the award of Chevalier de l'Ordre National de la Legion d'Honneur, France's highest decoration," the ambassador said.