Phyllis ‘Pippa’ Latour was born on 8 April 1921. Her father, Philippe, a French doctor, married Louise, a British citizen living in South Africa. When Phyllis was three months old her father died. Three years later her mother married a racing driver who allowed his new wife to race his cars as well. Sadly, this resulted in an accident and her mother’s death.
In November 1941, Phyllis moved to Britain where she joined the WAAF, serving as a flight mechanic. Through the WAAF, Phyllis came to the SOE’s attention and they invited her to join their physical and mental training courses. Phyllis was motivated to join the SOE because the Nazis had shot her godmother’s father and her godmother had committed suicide while imprisoned. She joined on 1 November 1943 and was commissioned as an Honarary Section Officer.
On 1 May 1944, Phyllis parachuted into Orne, Normandy to operate with the Scientist II circuit, using the code name Genevieve. She worked as a wireless operator alongside Claude de Baissac and his sister, Lise.
A small woman, Phyllis was fluent in French. Often, she posed as a teenage girl whose family had moved to the region to escape the Allied bombing. As cover, she was an art student from Caen who sold soap from her bicycle and mingled with the German soldiers.
When Phyllis obtained military intelligence she encoded it for transmission using one-time codes that were hidden on a piece of silk tied around her hair. On one occasion, the German’s brought her in for questioning, but they failed to examine the silk in her hair. On another occasion she deterred would-be searchers by pretending that she had scarlet fever.
After D-Day, Phyllis was held prisoner for five hours by the Allies because her looks did not match her official description, so adept had she become at disguise. Eventually, she was recognised by a guide and released. From her vantage point, she watched as the Allies marched through her village heading south on their mission to liberate France.
After the war, Phyllis married an engineer. Together, they had a family and lived in various countries, mainly in Australasia.