"SHE LANDED BY MOONLIGHT" is a fantastic story of a most remarkable woman, Pearl Witherington, an Englishwoman born in Paris of English parents, who carried a deep love and devotion for her adopted country France as great as her love for Britain.
During the Second World War, Witherington managed to spirit herself, her mother, and two of her sisters out of France to Britain following France's capitulation to Nazi Germany in June 1940. Three years later, Witherington joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE), trained as an agent and was parachuted into German-occupied France in September 1943. The book goes on to describe Witherington's achievements in the field over the following year against heavy odds. Indeed, at one point, the Germans had learned of her identity after the leader of the spy network of which she was a part had been captured by the Gestapo in May 1944. As a result, a ƒ1,000,000 bounty was put on Witherington's head. Undeterred, Witherington took on a new code name ('Pauline') and led the SOE Wrestler network in operations against German forces in the Valencay–Issoudun–Châteauroux triangle of central France. The 4,000 marquisards she organized, armed, and trained would play a significant role in tying down thousands of German soldiers after the Allies had landed in Normandy in June 1944.
This is a story that seems too incredible to be true. But it was all too real. Witherington survived the war, married the man she had long loved (who had also fought with her as a member of the Resistance in 1944), and went on to live a long life.
"SHE LANDED BY MOONLIGHT" also provides an interesting overview of SOE, how it came to be in July 1940, the opposition it faced from Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (i.e., MI-6), its organizational structure, and the contributions made by SOE's F Section (of which Pearl Witherington was a part) in France towards defeating Nazi Germany. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about a true 'Warrior Queen.'