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General studies talk by Carole Seymour-Jones

12 October 2013

This Wednesday, boys were fascinated by the story of a truly remarkable woman, Pearl Witherington, as told by her biographer, Carole Seymour-Jones. Carole is the grandmother of one of our Caldicott pupils and kindly volunteered to share her latest project with the 5th and 6th Form. They listened intently as they learned of the unthinkable nerve that was demonstrated by Agent Pearl as she organised resistance in occupied France during the Second World War.  At a time when male spies were in short supply, brave and determined women were recruited and parachuted into France, hence the title of Carole Seymour-Jones’ book; She Landed By Moonlight. Pearl’s mission was one of duty to her country and also a personal mission, as she also went to France in search of her lover Henri (who she was eventually re-united with). The boys were fascinated to learn about real spy-gadgets used by agents, such as fountain pens concealing knives, messages in the handle-bars of bikes, and Morse code. They were also made to consider the qualities needed by agents in the field; subtlety, sharp wits, courage, and the ability to spend a great deal of time alone in a foreign country. It was also no bad thing for them to move away from the James Bond image of being a spy and think about the role of women in the war. They couldn’t fail to be impressed that Pearl was in charge of a circuit of over 3,000 guerrilla resistance fighters, and they were shown many photos from the time.

Carole also made the boys think about how Pearl’s impoverished and very difficult childhood had turned her into the resourceful and resilient young woman that she became. When asked how she became so tough, Pearl once replied “It’s not me that’s tough, it’s life.”
If you would like to find out more, then details of Carole’s book are as follows:
She Landed By Moonlight; the Story of Secret Agent Pearl Witherington: the ‘real’ Charlotte Gray

·         Hardcover: 432 pages
·         Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (4 July 2013)
·         Language: English
·         ISBN-10: 1444724606
·         ISBN-13: 978-1444724608