Pearl Cornioley, who died in February, ended up in command of 3,000 French resistance fighters. […]
May 1944, she assumed control of 1,500 Resistance members and on D-Day was appointed to command some 3,000 members of the Maquis, who were the rural wartime French Resistance.
“Our training, which we did with the men, was purely military and as women we were expected to replace them in the field.”
Despite taking on these responsibilities, she was described in one British training report prior to her departure for France as not being leadership material, and it also suggested that she be best employed as a “subordinate”.
But another training assessment described her as “probably the best shot – male or female – we have yet had” and that “this student, though a woman, has definitely got leaders’ qualities. Cool and resourceful and extremely determined”.
She was recommended for the Military Cross after the war, but was ineligible because she was a woman.
She was offered a civil MBE as an alternative,, which she refused. Instead she was appointed an MBE (military division) by the air ministry.
Of her offer of a civil MBE, she had said: “I do consider it to be most unjust to be given a civilian decoration.