Cecile, a Brit born in France, joined SOE on June 8, 1943, after fleeing France.
When she dropped into France on September 22, 1943, she started as a courier.
After the Gestapo arrested Southgate in May 1944 and deported him to Buchenwald concentration camp, Witherington became leader of the new SOE Wrestler Network, under the new code-name "Pauline", in the Valencay–Issoudun–Châteauroux triangle.
She reorganised the network with the help of her fiancé, Henri Cornioley, and it fielded over 1,500 members of the Maquis. who played key roles in the Normandy landings. They were so effective that the Germans placed a 1,000,000 franc bounty on her head.
In one instance, a force of 2,000 German soldiers were sent to attack her and her men in a battle which lasted 14 hours.
The battle saw the death of 86 Germans and 24 of her freedom fighters. In all, 1,000 German soldiers were killed under her command, and railways connecting South and North France were disrupted over 800 times.
In the final days of the occupation, she presided over the surrender of 18,000 Germans.