Cecile Pearl Witherington was born 24 Feb 1914 in Paris, France to British born parents. She was raised in France, but was a British subject. Pearl did not attend school until she was 13, and after her father succumbed to drink, Pearl had to go out to work as a secretary to ensure that the family had food on the table.
Pearl was employed at the British embassy in Paris and engaged to Henri Cornioley (1910–1999) when the Germans invaded in May 1940. She escaped from occupied France with her mother and three sisters in December 1940. 
She eventually arrived in London, where she found work with the Air Ministry, specifically the Women's Auxiliary Air Force.
Determined to fight back against the German occupation of France, and wanting a more active role in the fight, she joined the Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE) on 8 June 1943.
Given the code name "Marie", Witherington was dropped by parachute into occupied France on 22 September 1943. There she joined Maurice Southgate, leader of the SOE Stationer Network. Over the next eight months, posing as a cosmetics saleswoman, she worked as Southgate's courier.
After the Gestapo arrested Southgate in May 1944 and deported him to Buchenwald concentration camp, Witherington became leader of the new SOE Wrestler Network, under the new code-name "Pauline". 
In September 1944, Witherington returned to England where she married Henri Cornioley in Kensington Register Office on 26 October 1944; they had a daughter, Claire. After the war Pearl and Henri returned to Paris. He worked as a pharmaceutical chemist, but failed to prosper in civilian life; she spent the remainder of her career working as the secretary to the Paris office of the World Bank.
With the help of journalist Hervé Larroque, Witherington's autobiography, Pauline, was published in 1997. 
In April 2006, after a six-decade wait, Witherington was awarded her parachute wings, which she considered a greater honour than either the MBE or the CBE. She had completed three training parachute jumps, with the fourth operational. But the chaps did four training jumps, and the fifth was operational - and you only got your wings after a total of five jumps, Witherington said. So I was not entitled - and for 63 years I have been moaning to anybody who would listen because I thought it was an injustice.
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