There is something faintly preposterous about the fact that Hollywood has not yet made a Pippa Latour biopic. The last surviving British woman to have served as a spy during World War II, Latour recently celebrated her 100th birthday. Although notoriously reticent to speak of her wartime adventures, if you piece together the available information, what emerges is a story of incredible bravery.

Born Phyllis Latour a century ago, her upbringing was threaded through with near-constant trauma. She was born aboard a Belgian ship that was docked at a South African port. Three months later, her father was killed during tribal wars in the Congo. Her mother re-married a racing driver, then died in a crash. She went to live with her father’s cousin, only for her new mother figure to die after being flung from a horse and bitten by a snake.

However, it was only once Latour arrived in Britain, at age 20, that the trauma hardened. Her godmother’s father—effectively the man she considered to be her grandfather—had been shot by the Nazis, and Latour vowed revenge. She took a job with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, but when British-intelligence officers started recruiting for the secret underground Special Operations Executive army (S.O.E.), Latour jumped at the chance.

The last surviving female Special Operations Executive agent, Latour operated under the code name “Paulette.”

Her training, by all accounts, was astonishingly grueling. A cat burglar by the name of “Killer” Green taught her how to pick locks with improvised keys. Policemen from Asia, well versed in the violence of the Shanghai underworld, taught her the art of silent killing. She was sent to the wilds of Scotland for extreme physical training, drilled to send Morse code at a rate of 24 words a minute, and underwent vigorous lessons in sabotage, espionage, and assassination. Members of the S.O.E. were told that, at best, they had a 50 percent chance of surviving.

This was to be tested on May 1, 1944. Aged 23, Latour found herself being parachuted into France, dropping into the Calvados area of Normandy after the men who were sent in before her had been caught and executed by the Nazis. She leapt from the plane carrying a tool to bury her parachute, along with some military-issue amphetamines and a suicide pill.

The man she considered to be her grandfather had been shot by the Nazis, and Latour vowed revenge.

In France, Latour operated under the code name “Paulette,” posing as an overly chatty teenage soap saleswoman who traveled around the area by bicycle. In one of the only interviews she has ever granted, Latour explained that she deliberately chose the persona in order to annoy Nazis. “I’d talk so much about anything and everything, trying to be ‘helpful’, and they’d get sick of me,” she said. When that didn’t work, as was the case when two German soldiers came dangerously close to discovering her identity, she feigned scarlet fever until they got scared and ran away.

Latour during the 1940s.

Times, as you would expect, were hard. Latour often found herself sleeping in the forest and eating whatever scraps she was offered. “One family I stayed with told me we were eating squirrel,” she recalled. “I found out later it was rat. I was half starved, so I didn’t care.”

But her commitment to the mission remained undimmed throughout. She hid her codes on a piece of silk hidden in the shoelace she tied her hair with. Over a period of a couple of months, she used them to send 135 messages back to London, to help guide Allied bombing missions. Danger was never far behind—her buried parachute was discovered, the Gestapo set about sniffing her out, and she claimed that they were never more than an hour from finding her. Nevertheless, Latour remained on her mission past D-day to the liberation of Paris, that August.

She leapt from the plane carrying a tool to bury her parachute, along with some military-issue amphetamines and a suicide pill.

She was one of the lucky ones. Five hundred women were sent into France by the S.O.E., and it’s estimated that one in five never returned. “I didn’t have good memories of the war, so I didn’t bother telling anyone what I did,” Latour said.

But stories like this don’t stay secret for long. After the war, Latour married and set off for Australia, only to discover that she had accidentally boarded a flight for New Zealand. So she stayed put, raising her children in Auckland, where one of them would eventually learn of her heroism only by googling her name. For her efforts, Latour received the Croix de Guerre avec Palme from the French government in 1946 and, in 1954, an M.B.E. for her services to Britain. Proper recognition came in 2014, when she was awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest order of merit, to thank her for her service.

Pippa Latour is the last of a dying breed. Hollywood, get busy.

Stuart Heritage is a Kent, U.K.–based Writer at Large for AIR MAIL