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Britain releases records on WW II spy

The secrets of a female spy who posed as a cosmetics saleswoman during World War II and helped lead the resistance inside Nazi-occupied France have been unsealed.

world Updated: Apr 01, 2008 10:16 IST

The secrets of a female spy who posed as a cosmetics saleswoman during World War II and helped lead the resistance inside Nazi-occupied France have been unsealed.

Pearl Cornioley outfoxed the Nazis by -- among other tricks -- concealing secret messages in the hem of her skirt and helping airmen escape to safety, according to records unsealed at Britain's National Archives yesterday.

The release follows Cornioley's death on February 24.

The records shed light on a woman who quickly adapted to life as an agent but never forgot about her family in Britain, requesting in handwritten notes that officials in London send her mother and sisters' timely birthday and Christmas presents.

The National Archives released two packets of information, detailing Cornioley's training as a special agent, her activities in the war and her struggle to be recognized by the government.

Cornioley, whose nom de guerre of Genevieve Touzalin while in France, was educated in Paris.

She escaped France ahead of the Nazi invasion and returned to Britain via Spain. Upon returning to Britain, she worked briefly at the Air Ministry in London but used her French to gain a slot as a Special Operations Executive agent -- one of about 40 women to serve.

The Air Ministry became part of the Ministry of Defense in the 1960s while the Special Operations Executive evolved into the Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6.