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The Amazing Stories That Inspired A Parcel for Prudence, Book 4 of the Virtues and Valor Serialized Story

4ParcelPrudence_640WHILE the story of the special team of operators I named The Virtues is entirely fictional, set in a fictional town, and comprised of fictional characters who form a fictional military division, every single one of my fictional heavenly heroines was inspired by a real World War II heroine and the story was inspired by real events.

Today, A Parcel for Prudence IS FREE. Yes! FREE. You can get it in ebook form at this link.

Here are the amazing stories that inspired the writing of A Parcel for Prudence, Part 4 of the Virtues and Valor Serialized Story.

prudence

WHILE the story of the special team of operators I named The Virtues is entirely fictional, set in a fictional town, and comprised of fictional characters who form a fictional military division, every single one of these fictional heavenly heroines was inspired by a real World War II heroine and their stories were inspired by real events.

The woman depicted on the cover of this book is a thus far unidentified former French resistance operative who, shortly after the liberation of Paris and at the request of a war correspondent, demonstrated the means by which she photographed key Nazi targets using a mini-camera hidden inside her purse. There are thousands of stories of fearless women who worked to defeat Nazi Germany while behind enemy lines.

I made every effort to remain true to actual history in my fictionalized story of Prudence which is based upon the truly inspiring real life heroine, Cécile Pearl Cornioley (ne: Witherington).

cecile pearl cornioleyBorn in Paris, June 24, 1914 into a very troubled family, her father drank heavily and her mother barely spoke French, so her mother looked to Pearl to handle a lot of the family’s business. This bleak childhood toughened Pearl into a strong woman, willing to fight for anything in life. Pearl didn’t start attending school until age 13, and then went to a bilingual school where she studied entirely in French in the morning and in English in the afternoon.

Once she left school, she worked in the British Embassy in Paris. Her father had died and her embassy job provided the only means of financial support for her family. What complicated her life was that shortly after leaving school, Pearl had fallen in love.
Henri Cornioley had started courting Pearl in 1933, and she eventually accepted his proposal of marriage. Once engaged, they struggled to obtain the blessings of their families, but neither of their families supported the union. Her mother didn’t want to lose her only means of financial support while Henri’s father didn’t want his son saddled with Pearl’s financially dependent family.

Pearl worked at the Embassy for 7 years all the way up until the war started. Henri had been called into French military service in 1939. As fate would have it, Henri was taken prisoner by the Germans in 1940. Miraculously, he later escaped from a prisoner of war camp and made his way back to Pearl.

When the Germans invaded France, Pearl and her family fled to Normandy. Her family was British, but despite promises from the British Embassy where she had toiled for seven long years, they received no help in getting transportation to Great Britain. In the winter of 1940, they found out that the Nazis had begun to arrest British citizens and they, again, fled Paris. They had a harrowing journey, many times on foot, from Paris to Spain to Gibraltar to Scotland then at long last to London, arriving on July 14, 1941. Pearl’s two sisters joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force while she worked for two years for the director of Allied Air Forces and Foreign Liaison.

Ultimately, Pearl joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and trained as a courier. She specifically asked to be attached to the “Stationer network” which was run by an old school friend. Their mission: harass the enemy, exhaust them, impede them by destroying communications and transportation lines, stop munitions production, and anything else they could do to hurt the enemy’s mission.

On September 22, 1943, Pearl parachuted into Occupied France and assumed the identity of a French national named Pauline and the codename, Wrestler. In wireless transmissions back to England, she was “Marie.” She was not yet 30 years old. There, she worked as a courier for Maurice Southgate. She often traveled by train, and as a way to disguise her intent, carried with her “pro-Nazi” French magazines. Henri’s father owned a cosmetics company named Isabelle Lancray, and Pearl had paperwork that provided a cover story of a cosmetic saleswoman to help explain why she traveled so much.

One of her team’s secret missions was to recruit and train smaller teams all throughout France so that on D-Day, the Allies would have help everywhere. They organized over 1500 members. This drew attention and the Gestapo arrested Maurice on May 1, 1944. On May 2, Pearl and her team arrived at an estate in Indre. They had supplies parachuted in and accomplished two more missions in that month. On July 11, 1944, three German garrisons (about 2,000 men) surrounded and attacked the estate. During the battle, Pearl lost 24 men.

She ran from the house and hid in a wheat field, crawling on her hands and knees while Germans shot at her. She hid in the field until 10:30 that night. Then she hid in a house while the Germans searched farms, estates, and houses, killing some people, arresting a few, terrorizing others. They burned down houses and barns and searched for Pearl’s team, whom they called “terrorists”. This became known as the Battle of Les Souches, which was a small part of a larger battle in which 32 French patriots lost their lives.

After losing her that night, the Germans put a ƒ1,000,000 price on her head.

Pearl reorganized after Les Souches, and Henri, who had returned to France and reunited with her after his harrowing escape from the Nazi run prisoner of war camp, became her second in command. They lived in the woods, organizing the flood of volunteers who suddenly foresaw a positive outcome in the war after the successful D-Day invasion. Their constant acts of sabotage often prevented German troops and munitions from reaching the Normandy coast. They also provided the RAF with intelligence that led to the bombing of a German train carrying 60 tankers of gasoline. This raid seriously handicapped the German army.

henri cornioley and pearl
Henri and Pearl — Photo source

 

Pearl rose to command more than 3,000 underground fighters who killed more than 1,000 Nazi troops and injured countless more. In September 1944, France was finally liberated. Pearl and Henri presided over the surrender of more than 18,000 German troops.

Within months, the couple returned to London where they finally, at long last, married thus ending their protracted eleven year engagement. They went on to have one daughter, Claire.

After the war, Pearl was nominated for an MBE, Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. However, there are two categories of the MBE: the military and the civil. Pearl had been nominated for the civil award, which she rejected with an icy note that stated, “There was nothing remotely ‘civil’ about what I did.”

Though she had completed airborne training and became one of only a handful of women to jump into enemy territory during the war, she was never awarded her parachutist badge, a fact she felt was a grave injustice for her entire life. In September 1946, Great Britain finally awarded her the military MBE. Much more recently, she was also awarded the CBE, the order of Chivalry known as the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, and the French Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur or the National Order of the Legion of Honour.

Henri died in 1999. Pearl died in 2008 at the age of 93.

Read about Murielle Tolson, code-named PRUDENCE, who was inspired by the amazing Pearl Witherington, in A Parcel for Prudence, FREE November 4-8 at this link.

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The Amazing Stories That Inspired Charity’s Code, Book 3 of the Virtues and Valor Serialized Story

cover_9781939603470_front_640WHILE the story of the special team of operators I named The Virtues is entirely fictional, set in a fictional town, and comprised of fictional characters who form a fictional military division, every single one of my fictional heavenly heroines was inspired by a real World War II heroine and the story was inspired by real events.

Today, Charity’s Code IS FREE. Yes! FREE. You can get it in ebook form at this link.

Here are the amazing stories that inspired the writing of Charity’s Code, Part 3 of the Virtues and Valor Serialized Story.

charity

WHILE the story of the special team of operators I named The Virtues is entirely fictional, set in a fictional town, and comprised of fictional characters who form a fictional military division, every single one of these fictional heavenly heroines was inspired by a real World War II heroine and their story was inspired by real events.

While every effort has been made to remain true to actual history, two of the real events of significance that are fictionalized in the story of Charity are the Blitzkrieg, also sometimes referred to as the Battle of Britain, and the British Ministry of Health Evacuation Scheme, which was the program to relocate the children of England to the countryside for the duration.

blitz london

On the first of July in 1940, the freshly bloodied Luftwaffe capitalized on successful bombing raids against Poland and Holland, dropping the first bombs on England. The bombing would escalate into the Blitzkrieg, and between 7 September 1940 and 21 May 1941 there were almost daily (or nightly) major aerial raids on 16 British cities. The attacks resulted in more than 100 tonnes of high explosives being dropped on mostly civilian targets in England.

The Luftwaffe bombed Great Britain for 57 consecutive nights starting on 7 September 1940. Destroying or damaging more than one million London houses and killing more than 40,000 civilians. On the single night of 14 November 1940, Hitler sent 515 bombers against Britain in what was later called the Coventry raid. The destruction and the death toll was shocking.

Citizens had five minutes to get to shelters once the air raid sirens sounded. Many Londoners who had lost their homes to the relentless bombing simply moved into the underground subway tubes.

tube

Courageous Londoners hunkered down every night, dusted off every morning, and picked up the pieces every day. Neighbors and families banded together. Neighborhoods organized into clearing teams. Blackout wardens comforted the living and counted the dead.

blitz

When war with Nazi Germany became imminent in the late 1930s, Great Britain began a huge effort to evacuate its children to rural areas of the country. The Ministry of Health was charged by King George VI with organizing an evacuation of as many children as possible from the urban centers to safer locales. Some children were sent to the United States, Australia, or Canada. The goal was to move them away from potential bombing targets such as London and urban centers near military production sites.

The Ministry of Health devised the Child Evacuation Scheme which was largely managed by volunteers. Although evacuation was never made mandatory, many parents put their children on the next scheduled train and sent them to parts unknown in the care of the British State simply to save them from the ravages of war.

posters

After the first bombs fell, sending one’s children to safety was widely viewed as the responsible thing to do. Countless parents who sent their children away from the cities saved their children’s lives. At the end of the war, estimates suggest that more than 230,000 British children had been orphaned.

children

Every day hundreds of children wearing paper identification tags sewn to their clothing made their way, mostly by rail, to safe countryside locations. Some were fortunate enough to stay with relatives but most ended up staying with complete strangers in towns they had never before visited.

The worry and concern for their children served as a constant distraction and source of heartbreak to city dwellers who had lost nearly everything and often feared for their lives as the Nazi bombs continued to relentlessly fall overhead.

Sadly, many children were placed into group homes in the countryside or involuntarily evacuated to Australia when space got too tight to manage. Many of these children would never be reunited with their living parents at the conclusion of the war.

During World War II, the Germans remodeled a 400-year-old building called Colditz Castle (Schloss Colditz), a Renaissance castle located in the town of Colditz near Leipzig, Dresden, and Chemnitz in the state of Saxony in Germany. It overlooked the Mulde River and had 7-foot thick outside walls. The interior of the 6-story structure contained a maze of concealed staircases, hidden passageways, and hundreds of rooms.

colditz castle
Schloss Colditz aka Colditz Castle circa 1939

When they completed the work to turn the building into a prison, the Germans renamed it Oflag IV C (Sonderlager IV C) and claimed that escape would be impossible. It became the holding place for highly important prisoners and those that habitually tried to escape from other prisons.

Floor plan of Castle Colditz once converted to Oflag IV C.
Floor plan of Castle Colditz once converted to Oflag IV C.

On November 7, 1940, six British officers who had tried to escape from another prison camp arrived, including Rupert Barry. My towering and strong fictional character, Tom, is based on stalwart and faithful Rupert.

By Christmas, Colditz Castle held 200 prisoners – the maximum it could hold. By February 1941, another 200 French prisoners had arrived, doubling the maximum occupancy rate. By July, the Nazis held 500 POWs there.

Two of the British officers, Captain P. R. Reid and Captain Rupert Barry, worked together to create a code that Barry then wrote in a letter to his wife, Dodo, upon whom the fictional Dotty, code-named Charity, is based. The real life heroine, Dodo Barry, was a highly intelligent woman who could solve the complicated Times of London crossword puzzle in mere minutes. Captain Rupert Barry doted upon his beloved wife and, what’s more, he deeply appreciated and respected her keen mind. He felt more than confident in his wife’s abilities to crack the code they devised.

The address being written at an angle trailing up toward the stamp in the fictional story of Charity is a fiction based on numerous such factual occurrences throughout history. Soldiers during the American War Between the States would do this, hiding secret love messages beneath the postage stamps. Many spies used the same method during the First World War. During the Second World War, spies on all sides would hide microdots beneath postage stamps. The method of hiding keys and codes “under the rug” of a postage stamp became so popular, that a key to a cipher code was even hidden beneath a postage stamp in a famous Agatha Christie story.

In real life, upon receiving the letter, Dodo at first thought that conditions as a German POW had broken her dear husband’s mind. He wrote about relatives they didn’t have and referred to places they’d never visited. Then she realized that he’d written the letter in code and she spent the day deciphering the letter using nothing but her very own wits.

Decoded, it read:

Go to the War Office, ask them to send forged Swedish diplomatic papers for Reid, Howe, Allan, Lockwood, Elliott, Wardle, Milne, and self.

The next morning, Dodo went to the War Office. The officer at the desk would not let her into the building. While she stood in front of the clerk’s desk arguing with him, another officer walked by and she pleaded with him to help her. As if by providence, the officer happened to be assigned to military intelligence, a military branch with ties to MI-9.
The officer, whose name is lost to history, realized Dodo was onto something. He started working with her and had her write back to her husband and tell him, without code, that his elderly “Aunt Christine” was deeply saddened by her nephew’s capture and would write him shortly.

Under that guise, and using the same code the prisoners had created, and Dodo had deciphered, the War Office sent him a coded letter that said:

The War Office considered the use of Swedish diplomatic papers to be too dangerous.
Angry, disappointed, and frustrated with the news, instead of writing “Aunt Christine” back, Barry wrote Dodo back. Once she received his second encoded letter, she took it back to her contact at the War Office.

The deciphered message read:

We will consider the danger and not the War Office. Would you please expedite the request?

The War Office never sent the papers. However, these first “Dodo” letters had opened up a line of communication between the War Office, MI-9, and the POWs being held at Colditz Castle.

Of absolute primary importance, they needed to establish a better code.

The very tall Rupert Barry (second from the left) along with 5 former POWs pictured here outside Castle Colditz after the war.

The very tall Rupert Barry (second from the left) along with 5 former POWs pictured here outside Castle Colditz after the war.
The very tall Rupert Barry (second from the left) along with
5 former POWs pictured here outside Castle Colditz after
the war.

To anyone who spoke English, the simply encoded letters would have read as a little bit odd or disjointed. The Nazi censors often only had a rudimentary grasp of the English language, so they were able to slip by unnoticed. However, four letters in this rudimentary code was pushing their luck. Eventually, they felt the Nazis would catch on and have insight into their plans.

Under the direction of her intelligence officer, Dodo wrote a letter to Rupert explaining that an International Red Cross package would arrive with further instructions. Along with some clothing, one package contained six handkerchiefs with different colored borders. Coded instructions in Dodo’s letter directed Barry to place the green bordered handkerchief in hot water and stir for several minutes. Soon, a more elaborate code appeared in hidden ink on the handkerchief. Barry memorized the code then destroyed the material. Over time, she shared the code with his fellow prisoners who also memorized it.
With well coded letters and hidden supplies contained in Red Cross packages, the MI-9 office (escape and evasion service) supplied the prisoners in Colditz with money, identification documents, radios, tools, train schedules, border crossing policies and routines, clothing, and even weapons.

Letter from Colditz sent home to Scotland by POW Captain Julius Morris Green. A dentist before the war, Green was captured fighting the Nazis at Dunkirk in 1940. Green sent more than 40 coded letters home once the letters sent to Dodo bore fruit.
Letter from Colditz sent home to Scotland by POW Captain
Julius Morris Green. A dentist before the war, Green was
captured fighting the Nazis at Dunkirk in 1940. Green sent
more than 40 coded letters home once the letters sent to
Dodo bore fruit.

The war effort was greatly aided by critical intelligence sent home from the prisoners. One such prisoner, a skilled dentist, was often called upon to treat German soldiers and officers as well as his fellow prisoners. He sent letters back home to Scotland and the ones that began “Dear Dad” often contained crucial information pertaining to troop movements inside Germany.

With the aid of the secreted supplies and intelligence MI-9 could provide via this now secure communication channel, 130 prisoners escaped from Colditz Castle – either successfully or unsuccessfully – over a 5 year period.

Of those 130 escaped prisoners, 32 of them escaped successfully. In all, 12 Frenchmen, 11 Britons, 7 Dutch, and 1 Polish prisoner of war made it all the way home, a feat that came to be known as a Home Run. This number of prisoners of war escaping and making it all the way back home is unequaled in modern warfare. Among these successful escapees was Captain P. R. Reid who had helped Rupert Barry pen that very first letter to his wife, Dodo.

Because of Dodo, also the name of a now extinct bird, the Colditz Castle escapees came to be known as the “Birdmen of Colditz” and their escapes and attempted escapes have been the subject of many books, films, and even a BBC television series. Very few photographs of Dodo or her husband survive today.

cover_9781939603470_front_640Selected for the cover of this book is the incredible Yolande Betbeze (ne Fox) who may be most well known for her association with baseball great Joe Dimaggio, her marriage to movie tycoon Matthew Fox until his death, her activism in the 1960s, and for taking the Miss America crown in 1950. While not exactly a British housewife with “island blood,” the publisher felt that this woman’s indomitable spirit strongly represented the fictional character of Charity.

Excerpt from her official Miss America bio: “Always courageous and sometimes controversial, Yolande has always been ahead of her time, tackling tough issues and making a stand before the issues at hand were fashionable.”

Born in 1929 to William and Ethel of Mobile, Alabama, Yolande was raised in a strict Catholic family with Basque origins and was educated in a convent school. In 1950 shortly after her twentieth birthday, Betbeze traveled to Atlantic City, New Jersey, to compete in the Miss America pageant. Beyond her beauty and her operatic musical talent, Yolande handily took top honors for her scholarship, values, and leadership.

After winning the competition, she made no secret of her reluctance to don what she considered a very immodest swimsuit (tame by modern standards) and her refusal caused Catalina swimwear to withdraw their sponsorship from the pageant. To this day, the Miss America Organization claims that her actions were pivotal in directing the Miss America Pageant toward recognizing intellect, values, and leadership abilities, rather than focusing on beauty alone. From then on the Miss America pageant concentrated more on scholarship than beauty. Since there was no Miss America in 1950, Betbeze became the reigning Miss America in 1951.

After her year as Miss America, Yolande served as an ambassador to postwar Paris, France and was active in both the NAACP and CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) upon her return to the United States. She never lost her love for opera, even appearing with the Mobile Opera Guild (the Mobile Opera today), and helped found an off-Broadway theater.

Read about Dorothy Ewing, code-named CHARITY, who was inspired by the amazing Dodo Barry, in Charity’s Code, FREE November 3-7 at this link.

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