Phyllis ‘Pippa’ Doyle (nee Latour) SOE wireless operator in France.

Phyllis was born in South Africa on 8 April 1921, her father was a French doctor who died when she was three months old, and her mother was a British citizen.

Her mother later married a racing car driver who was killed after his car crashed into a barrier and according to some writers her mother also died in a car crash after which Phyllis was sent to live with her father’s cousin in the AEF (French Equatorial Africa) and she later returned to South Africa.


At the age of 20 Phyllis moved to England and join the WAAF and was trained as an airframe mechanic (others say she had a different trade) and due to her language skills, she was approached by SOE and given an opportunity to volunteer for hazardous missions in France. During one of her rare interviews Pippa was reported as saying, I volunteered for revenge, my godmother had committed suicide after being taken prisoner by the Nazis and my godmother’s father had been shot by the Germans.

After completing agent training, she attended the Wireless and Security School and successfully became a wireless trained agent to support resistance in France.


On 1 May 1944 she was dropped by parachute into Orme Normandy, to work as the wireless operator for SCIENTIST circuit led by Claude de Baissac (code name David).

At the age of 23 Pippa appeared a lot younger and posed as a teenage girl whose family had moved to the countryside to escape the allied bombings and rode around the region on a bicycle selling soap and talking to German soldiers to collect intelligence.

Whilst SCIENTIST circuit was supporting D-day Pippa had six wireless sets hidden throughout the countryside including one in a baby’s pram, which also contained a baby, and Phyllis said she also had a wireless hidden under poo {shit} in an outside toilet which the Germans were reluctant to examine.

By the time France was liberated Pippa sent 135 messages to London which contained valuable intelligence and coordinated sabotage operations to support the allied strategy.

After the war she married an engineer with the surname Doyle and eventually emigrated to New Zealand. In 2021 she celebrated her 100th birthday and is thought to be the last living female agent of SOE’s French Section.


Pippa is noted for never discussing her war service with her family until her children saw an article about her on the internet in 2000.

Heinrich Mathy: Commander of German Zeppelin L31 during air raids on London and the Home Counties during WW1.

Heinrich Mathy was born on 4 April 1883 in Mannheim, Germany and became a household name in Britain during the Great War as the commander of Zeppelin L31.

Today, if you go to the Dolphin Tavern on Red Lion Street in London you will see a battered old clock on the wall. The clock does not work and for over 100 years the hands have been stuck at 10:40


At 10:40 pm on 8 September 1915 German Zeppelin L31 commanded by Heinch Mathy was flying at 8,500 feet above London when Mathy gave the order to drop its load of high explosive bombs during which the Dolphin Tavern received a direct hit and three men were killed.


In the rubble was found the pub’s clock which had been battered beyond repair with its hands stuck at the exact time of the explosion (10:40). After the Dolphin Tavern was rebuilt after the war it was decided to put the clock back on the wall with its hands frozen in time.

The fate of Heinrich and the crew of L13.

On the night of 1 October 1916 Heinrich Mathy and the eighteen-men crew of L31 reached the outskirts of London where the Super Zeppelin was intercepted by British pilot Wulstan Tempest DSO, MC flying a B.E.SC.

L321 Zeppelin killer Wulstan Tempest

Wulstan Tempest

Tempest’s personal account of his engagement with L31

“At about 11:45pm I found myself over south-west London at the altitude of 14,000 feet. I was gazing towards the north-east of London where the fog was also heavy when I noticed all the searchlights in that quarter concentrated in an enormous pyramid.

Following them to the apex, I saw a small cigar-shaped object which I realised was a Zeppelin. It was about 15 miles away and heading straight for London.

I was having an unpleasant time, as to get to the Zeppelin I had to pass through a very heavy inferno of bursting shells from the AA {Anti-aircraft} guns below.

All at once it appeared the Zeppelin must have sighted me, for she dropped all her bombs in one volley, swung round, tilted up her nose and proceeded to race away, rapidly rising northwards.

I made after her at all speed at about 15,000 feet altitude. The AA fire was intense and I being about 5 miles behind the Zeppelin had an extremely uncomfortable time.

After firing three flares to alert the gunners below of my presence I closed in for the kill.

I dived straight at her, sending a burst straight into her as I came. I let her have another burst as I passed under her and then, banking my machine over, sat under her tail, and flying underneath her pumped lead into her for all I was worth. I could tracer bullets flying from her in all directions but I was too close under her for her to concentrate fire upon me.

As I was firing I noticed it began to go red inside like a Chinese lantern. The flame shot out of the front part of her and I realised she was on fire.

Then she shot up about 200 feet, paused, and came roaring straight down on me before I could get out of the way.


I nose dived for all I was worth with the Zeppelin tearing after me and expected every minute to be engulfed in the flames.

I put my machine into a spin and just managed to corkscrew out of the way as she shot past me like a roaring furnace. I righten my machine and watched her hit the ground with a shower of sparks… I then started to feel very sick and giddy and exhausted, and had considerable difficulty in finding the way to the ground through the fog and landing. In doing so I crashed and cut my head after hitting my machine gun”

Later reports describe thousands of people cheering and jeering during the three minutes it took the blazing Zeppelin to hit the ground at Potters bar.

Aboard L31 Mathy and the 13 crew members had the choice of burning to death in the inferno or jumping to their deaths and it was said Heinrich Mathy wrapped a thick woollen scarf around his neck which was a present from his wife before he jumped.

He impression in the earth left by Heinrich Mathy s falling body

Indentation on the grass made by Heinrich Mathy’s body after hitting the ground at around 120 mph/200kms (terminal velocity)

Newspapers the following day reported, “The framework of the Zeppelin lay in the field in two enormous heaps, separated from each other by about a hundred yards. Most of the forepart hung suspended from a tree.”


Crash site in Potters Bar.

A journalist named MacDonagh persuaded the police to allow him to view the bodies which had been taken to a barn and recalled, “The sergeant removed the covering from one of the bodies which lay apart from the others. The only disfigurement was a slight distortion of the face. It was that of a young man, clean shaven. He was heavily clad in a dark uniform and overcoat, with a thick muffler around his neck.

I knew who he was. At the office we knew who commanded Z31… It was the body was Heinrich Mathy”

Sergeant John Austin, wireless operator with Jedburgh team DUDLEY: Netherlands 1944

Whilst serving with the Royal Berkshire Regiment John Austin volunteered to join the Jedburgh Teams (Jed’s) which were formed to operate in various occupied countries to assist local resistance supporting the allied strategy for D-day and after completing training was promoted to sergeant.

On the night of 11 September 1944 John Austin with Major Brinkgreve of the Dutch Army and Major Olmsted of the US army, referred to as Team DUDLEY, parachuted from a Short Sterling bomber into a remote region of the Netherlands and after leaving the aircraft two containers of weapons were dropped by parachute which they buried not far from where they landed.

Apart from arming members of the Dutch Resistance operating in Overijessal, a province in the eastern part of the Netherlands, they were also ordered to encourage the Resistance to defend bridges which the allies needed during their advance into Germany.

The Jedburgh Dudley Team from left to right Henk Brink Greve John Austin and John Olmsted

Jedburgh Team Dudley. From left to right: Henk Bringreve (Netherlands), John Austin (British), John Olmsted (USA)

Jedburgh teams were not undercover agents and wore uniforms and though this was appropriate for Jed’s working in France and other occupied countries it was impractical in a small country like the Netherlands where they had to move around the country, so they quickly acquired civilian clothes and after meeting members of the Resistance the following message Austin sent to London was far from encouraging:

“The local self-appointed Resistance leader had a very imperfect group under his command. They had no knowledge about German troops in the area or any German supplies or depots in the area.”

During Operation Market Garden on 17 September 1944 when allied paratroopers attempted to seize bridges over the Rhine, intense fighting in the city of Arnhem and the surrounding area resulted in large numbers of German troops looking for members of the Resistance and people assisting allied paratroopers.

Whilst the three Jed’s and a members of the Resistance were travelling by car they came across a checkpoint manned by the Wafer SS, because they had no documents and were armed they decided to crash through the road block whilst firing at the soldiers with their Sten guns and during the brief but intensive engagement five members of the SS were killed or wounded. Later that day a car of the same make and model approached the same checkpoint and the SS immediately opened fire with machine guns and threw two grenades at the approaching vehicle, and whilst examining the wrecked car discovered they had killed an SS officer, a Gestapo (SD) officer and their driver.

Over the next few days Team Dudley with members of the Resistance were involved in several sabotage operations and ambushing German troops and by 1 October the team had organised all the resistance groups in the area which numbered around 3500 men and women. Austin also informed London they had a further 12 to 15,000 who could be mobilised to support the allied advance.

It is thought to have been late November when Austin, Brinkgreve, Olmsted along with around 116 other escapers including members of the British 1st Airborne Division which was trapped behind enemy lines attempted to cross the Rhine but only seven succeeded and the remainder were either killed or captured and one of those captured was John Austin.

John Austin was sent to Zwolle Prison in north-eastern Netherlands and on 4 April Austin and five Dutch prisoners were taken from their cells and shot in retaliation following an attack on a senior German officer. At the time of his death Austin was 21 and his name is on the Memorial at Hattem, Netherlands.

Austin 1945 Hattem

The Battle of Mirbat, Oman, 19 July 1972: 22nd Special Air Service Regiment.

Talaiasai Labalaba (known as Laba) who some soldiers said should have been awarded the VC.

Memorial laba

Memorial to Laba of B Squadron 22 SAS who was KIA during the battle.

Laba was born in Nawaka, Fiji on 13 July 1942 and was a sergeant serving with the Royal Irish Rangwers before joining the Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) during which he saw active service in Aden and Oman.

During the 1970s Communist guerrillas were attacking the pro-western Sultan of Oman and elements from the SAS were deployed to support the Sultan’s army.


The Fort at Mirbat

In July 1972 four-hundred heavily armed Communist guerrillas attacked the coastal town of Mirbat which was occupied by a small number of Arab soldiers and nine members of the SAS under the command of 23-year-old Captain Mike Kealy and due to being greatly outnumbered the Communists were certain of a quick victory.

The SAS soldiers were only armed with their personal weapons, one mortar, a Browning machine gun and a Second World War 25-pounder gun.

After the Duke and Duchess of Sussex unveiled a memorial to British-Fijian SAS soldier the story of how Lab held off 250 Communist guerrillas as they attempted to overrun their position was reported by a small number of newspapers who used the words of two SAS soldiers who fought during the battle: Trooper Sekonaia Takavesi, a Britsh-Fijian known as ‘Sek’ and Corporal Peter Warne known as ‘Snapper’.


“A mortar salvo blew away part of the perimeter wire and a round exploded on the edge of the town. Shrapnel flew over our heads. Then I turned to see Mike Kealy clambering over a wall. He was telling me to go down to the radio and contact base… As I returned to my position and eased off the safety catch of my Browning, a massive explosion took a great chunk out of the tower.

1200px Mirbat8

In the flash I could see Laba, a Fijian SAS soldier, kneeling behind the shield of a 20-pounder. An hour-and-a-half or two hours later, I saw the first assault troops of about 50 advancing towards us… The battle was on. As the adrenaline kicked in the emotional shutters came down and all feelings of humanity were locked out. It’s a kind of exhilarating insanity, its kill or be killed. So we set about taking them out. The group in front were hit, the line faltered then wave upon wave of them were advancing, grabbing at the barbed perimeter wire with bare hands while Laba was blasting them into oblivion.”

Mirbat Gun sml

20-pounder used by Laba


“When Laba and I were firing we were under heavy attack. They were almost on top of us, shooting from all directions. We were firing at point blank range, we had no time to aim… We were pretty short of ammunition and the battle was getting fiercer. They were still advancing, and we were almost surrounded. Then Laba told me there was a 66 mm mortar {? might be 66mm LAW)  inside the gate.

We were joking in Fijian and I said, ‘Laba, keep your head down’ as he crawled away towards the mortar. I was covering him then I heard a crack, I turned, all I could see was blood. A bullet had hit Laba’s neck and blood was spouting out. He died within seconds.

I had to think how to survive. I could hear the radio going, but it was too far away to call for help. Then I saw Captain Kealy and another soldier Tommy Tobin coming towards me. Tommy was the first to reach the command post and as he climbed over the wall he got shot in the jaw. I heard a machine gun fire and all I could see was his face totally torn apart. He fell and Mike Kealy dragged him to a safe area.

Tommy Tobin

Tommy Tobin (from the book credited at the end of this article)

Then Mike got himself into an ammunition pit and started throwing loaded magazines to me.

Mike Kealy sml

Captain Mike Kealy (see book credit)

We could see two or three people {rebels} on the corner of the fort throwing grenades from only about four or five metres away. We managed to kill a few. All I could hear was Mike on the radio trying to get support.


As the battle raged two Strikemaster jets roared over.”


“The rebels turned their attention to the jets as the first strafing runs were made. They came back with bullets, rockets and a 500 kg bomb into the wadi {oasis} to the east of the fort. One jet was hit in the tail section and limped away. The other made one final run but our jubilation was short lived because the enemy had regrouped and were counter-attacking.

An SAS soldier we called ‘Fuzz’ couldn’t get the right angle with the mortar, so he lifted the barrel to his chest, hugged it like a dancing partner and slid a bomb down. Then he sent bomb after bomb right where Mike wanted them.

Two Strikemasters arrived on strafing runs and then helicopters ferried out the troops. The final toll was two SAS soldiers killed, six Arab soldiers and an Omani gunner dead and one Arab wounded. The guerrillas left behind 30 bodies and 10 wounded, although it was later indicated that half the force was killed or wounded.


“The enemy were totally destroyed, but it was very sad to see Laba and Tobin die. I think all the people involved should have been given medals…”


“Laba was a bear of a man. When he was fully tooled up he was the original Rambo. They wanted to give him a VC but because the war was secret in 1972 they said it would be headlines in every newspaper in the UK.”

(Source Fiji Times 26 October 2018)

The Battle of Mirbat marked the end of the Communist rebellion and by the time the war ended in 1976 the SAS lost 12 men.

Further reading: ‘SAS Operation Storm: Nine Men Against Four Hundred’ by Roger Cole and Richard Belfield (Hodder & Stoughton)

Sergeant Arnold Loosemore DCM, VC. Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment 1917

Arnold Loosemore enlisted into the army on 2 January 1915 at the age of 18 and after completing training was posted as a private soldier to the York and Lancaster Regiment and served during the Gallipoli Campaign.

After returning to England he underwent training as a Lewis Machine Gunner and in July 1916 was posted to the 8th Battalion Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment and at the age of 21 his battalion was posted to the Somme in France.

Arnold Loosemore VC

On 11 August 1917 his platoon came under intense rifle and machine gun fire from German trenches and were pinned down when Private Loosemore decided to attack the enemy trench alone. After crawling towards enemy barbed wire under fire he found a section which was partly cut and after crawling through with his Lewis gun he continued crawling to higher ground before engaging a German trench and killing around twenty enemy soldiers.

After his Lewis Gun jammed three German soldiers rushed his position which he killed at close range with his revolver before clearing his jammed gun and continuing his lone firefight. Later that day he also killed several German snipers and carried an injured British soldier to safety. For his bravery he was promoted to Corporal then to Sergeant and was awarded the VC.

At Zillebeke in Belgium, on 19 June 1918 his officer was seriously wounded, and his platoon became widely scattered during an enemy bombardment. Whilst disregarding his own safety under machine gun fire Sergeant Loosemore organised his platoon and brought them back along with the wounded to the British lines. It was later recognised it was his leadership which resulted in his platoon later capturing the enemy position and was awarded the DCM (Distinguihed Conduct Medal).

On 13 October 1918 Sergeant Arnold Loosemore DCM, VC was shot in the leg by machine gun fire near Villiers-en-Cauchies, France and his leg had to be amputated above the knee after which he returned to England and was discharged from the army. Due to various health problems associated with his war injury he was unable to find work and died from tuberculosis on 10 April 1924.

His wife Mary who had a young son also called Arnold was refused a War Pension from the government because her husband died after the war and found herself destitute. With no money to pay for a funeral Mary was forced to bury her husband in an existing grave with three other bodies whose families could not pay the funeral costs at All Saints Churchyard, Ecclesall, Sheffield.

Operation Josephine: Sabotage of Pessac Power Station in France June 1941

One of the transformers destroyed during the attack (German Federal Archives)

In late May 1941 the Special Operations Executive (SOE) received a request to sabotage the power station in Passaic near Bordeaux but due to other operations they had no agents available and asked the Polish Section (EU/P) which came under the jurisdiction of the Polish Government in Exile in London whether they would be take the mission and after agreeing six Polish volunteers boarded an RAF aircraft of 138 Special Duty Squadron at RAF Tempsford to parachute into France.

Shortly after entering French air space the aircraft suffered an electrical fault which caused their container loaded with weapons and explosives to be jettisoned over the Loir and were forced to abandon the mission and return to England. Unbeknown to the aircrew the electrical fault was serious and caused the aircraft to crash land at Tempsford and catch fire: all the crew were either killed or injured and the six Polish agents suffered serious burns.

SOE HQ then asked RF Section (the Free French equivalent to SOE under General de Gaulle) whether they were willing to attack the power station and after de Gaulle agreed, on the night of 11-12 May 1941 three agents from RF Section, J Forman, Raymond Cobard and André Vernier (aka Jacques Leblanc) successfully infiltrated France by parachute.

After hiding their weapons and explosives the team reconnoitred the power station: there was a high-tension cable very close to the top of a 9-foot wall they needed to climb over and it appeared there was a large number of German and Italian soldiers protecting the power station. They also failed to obtain the bicycles which they intended to use for the getaway so decided to postpone the attack.

Before leaving England Forman was given the Paris address of an RF agent named Joêl Letac who remained in France after a failed mission called Operation Savanna and after meeting Forman Letac rallied that team and encouraged them to continue the mission and the following day travelled with them to the power station. After the old lorry they obtained broke down they continued the remainder of the journey on stolen bicycles and recovered the equipment they had buried around 100 yards from the power station.

On the night of 7-8 June 1941 during pitched darkness due to the blackout Forman climbed the perimeter wall and crawled under the high-tension cable which was dangerously close. After ensuring he could not be seen by the guards Forman entered the compound and opened a side door, the rest of the team entered the grounds of the power station and then sprinted across open ground to the main building.

In less than thirty minutes the team placed magnetic incendiary devices on eight large electricity transformers and then made their getaway on the stolen bicycles. It has been said the explosions were so violent flames rose high into the air and illuminated the entire area as searchlights started probing the sky for bombers.

Six of the transformers were destroyed and this seriously disrupted the the Bordeaux submarine base, numerous factories used to supply the German army were forced to stop production for several weeks.The electricity grid from another region was diverted but the overload caused more damage and all electric trains in south wester France had to be replaced with steam locomotives, and all the transformer oil in France had to be used during the repairs.

Some writers claim the team was picked up by an RAF Lysander of 161 Special Duty Squadron, but this was not the case. The team arrived in France with one million francs (said to be about £1,400 in 1941 and roughly £71,000 in 2021) and the money was unaccountable! Instead of requesting an extraction they remained in France for a further two months and according to historian MRD Foot “They left behind them broken glass and broken hearts” before making for neutral Spain and arriving back in England. Before crossing the frontier Cabard was captured but later escaped and returned to England.

Operation Cadillac 14 July 1944: SOE and the French Resistance

On 10 June 1944 the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and other Resistance Networks were told to find suitable large and remote fields for mass daylight parachute drops of weapons and other stores.

Parachutage armement résistance

The first daylight drop of weapons and stores was called Operation Zebra on 25 June 1944 when 180 B-17 bombers of the USAAF with fighter escorts dropped 2,160 containers to SOE and members of the Resistance at Ain, Jura, Haute Vienna and Vercose and due to its success a larger drop by Allied aircraft called Operation cadillac took place on 14 July 1944.


Operation Cadillac consisted of 349 bombers (mostly B17’s) with 534 Allied fighter escorts during which 3,791 containers loaded with 417 tons of weapons were dropped at seven locations. (Photos Musee de la Résistance)

The worldly possessions of Private Edward Ambrose who was killed during the Great War

At the age of 19 Private Edward ‘Ted’ Ambrose from Wallington Hertfordshire, died from shrapnel wounds during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 whilst serving with the Bedford Regiment and is buried in Etaples Military Cemetery in France.

He possessions were returned to his mother in a parcel which contained his cigarette case with three roll-ups, his pipe which still contained tobacco, a photograph of his girl friend and letters from his parents. His mother found the contents of the parcel too painful to look at and it was placed in the loft. 98 years later Edward Ambrose’s nephew opened the parcel and discovered the army had also sent his grieving mother the shrapnel that killed her son!

Ambrose shranel

Shrapnel which killed 19 year old Private Edward Ambrose which was sent to his grieving mother.

John ‘Barney’ Hines also known as the ‘Souvenir King’ during WW1

Photograph of John Hines surrounded by some of his stolen and liberated souvenirs whilst serving on the Western Front.

John Hines was a British-born Australian soldier who served on the Western Front during the Great War who became known for looting whatever he could get his hands on but was also noted for being an aggressive soldier. In June 1917 he captured 60 German soldiers during the Battle of Messines after throwing hand grenades into their pillbox.

Although he was brave in battle his behaviour was erratic and when away from the front line he was court martialled on nine occasions for drunkenness, impeding military police, forging entries in his pay book and being absent without leave. It is also thought he was caught robbing the safe at a bank in Amiens and because of these convictions he lost several promotions he gained for acts of bravery.

In mid-1918 he was discharged from the Australian Army for being unfit due to haemorrhoid problems and arrived back in Australia on 19 October 1918. For the next 40 years he lived near Mount Druitt in a small shelter made of old clothes which was surrounded by a fence on which he hung German helmets and the local people were afraid of him. Despite being a recluse and pennyless he travelled to Concord Repatriation Hospital each week to donate a suitcase of vegetables from his garden to veterans being treated there.

At the start of the Second World War he attempted to enlist but was rejected, at that time he was 60 years old. After being rejected it was widely claimed he attempted to stow away on a troop ship but was caught before the ship sailed.

John ‘Barney’ Hines died at Concord Repatriation HospitaL on 28 January 1958 and buried in a grave which was unmarked until 1971, when a charity paid for a headstone. The council renamed the street on which he lived to John Hines Avenue and a monument commemorating him was built at Mount Druitt Waterholes Remembrance Gardens in 2020.

Historian Peter Stanley said Hines was a man whose skills in fighting were needed and whose knack of souveniring was admired, but he had few gifts that a peaceful society valued.