Do you like to knit? Do you have the nerve to knit in the middle of an enemy stronghold and work messages into your knitting to pass on to your country’s armed forces? That is what the women featured in today’s blog did during war time. I salute them for their bravery and determination. Let’s take a look at what they accomplished and how they alerted their forces using their needlework.
|Knit/Purl Stitches by WillowW|
Phyllis Latour Doyle
Phyllis joined the RAF in 1941 after a friend was killed by Nazi soldiers. She planned to train to be an airplane mechanic but others noted her potential. Because her father was French, Phyllis grew up speaking fluent French and would be valuable as a spy behind lines. She agreed to become a spy and was trained by a cat burglar to do things like cross a roof top undetected.
At the end of her training, Phyllis parachuted into Normandy. She pretended to
be a teenager to throw off suspicion. She traveled by bicycle and chatted with German soldiers. She would then go someplace secret, bring out her knitting and use one of her 2,000 codes to send a message. She would hide the knitted message by winding the strip around a knitting needle and inserting it in a hair tie. Each time she used one of the codes she’d been given she would mark the code, so she wouldn’t use it again.
|1904 Picture of|
Phyllis had to keep on the move. She would send her message and then go quickly before the Germans could trace the source of the message. They did not catch her. She often had to sleep on the forest floor unless she found some Allied sympathizers. She ate what food she could find and was often hungry, but she always had her knitting and her silk thread she used for her patterns.
In 2014, Phyllis was awarded the Legion of Honour, France’s highest decoration. She did not want to get this award but did it for her family. She was 93 at the time. Her family found out about her spy work in the late 1900’s when one of her sons read about her on the internet. She did not want to brag about the service she’d done for her country.
|WWI Ad for Knitting|
By Marguerite Martyn
In an upper room, Lavengle sat at a window knitting. Every day she would sit there and knit. Such an innocent pastime, right? Meanwhile, she would tap her foot on the floor and her children below her would copy down the code she signaled with the tapping. The German Marshall in her home never suspected she was gathering and passing on information. Amazing.
Molly “Mom” Rinker
Molly Rinker owned a tavern during the Revolutionary War. She often had British soldiers in her town and in her tavern. She wanted to do something to help the Revolution, so she would go to the park and sit on a high hill or rock and knit. As she watched and listened, she would tie knots in her ball of yarn as a code. Then she would drop the yarn at a certain place for the Revolutionary soldiers to find. In this way, a woman in a lowly occupation, helped out her fledgling country. Thank you, Molly.
|Binary Pattern by Kurt Pippen Fowler|
Do you knit? Do you do another type of needlework? Would you have been brave enough to be a spy? To be dropped behind enemy lines and send coded messages? Or to gather information right under the enemy’s noses? What a challenge and what amazing women.
Nancy J Farrier is an award-winning author who lives in Southern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.