WW2 resistance hero Nancy Wake dies
Monday 08 August 2011
Australian Nancy Wake, who as a spy became one the Allies' most decorated servicewomen for her role in the French resistance during World War II, has died in London, officials said today. She was 98.
Code named "The White Mouse" by the Gestapo during the war, Wake died Sunday in a London nursing home, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.
"Nancy Wake was a woman of exceptional courage and resourcefulness whose daring exploits saved the lives of hundreds of Allied personnel and helped bring the Nazi occupation of France to an end," Gillard said in a statement.
Trained by British intelligence in espionage and sabotage, Wake helped to arm and lead 7,000 resistance fighters in weakening German defenses before the D-Day invasion in the last months of the war.
While distributing weapons, money and code books in Nazi-occupied France, she evaded capture many times and reached the top of the Gestapo's wanted list, according to her biographer, Peter FitzSimons.
"They called her the 'la Souris Blanche,' 'the White Mouse,' because every time they had her concerned ... she was gone again," FitzSimons told Australian Broadcast Corp. radio on Monday.
"Part of it was she was a gorgeous looking woman," he said. "The Germans were looking for someone who looked like them: aggressive, a man with guns — and she was not like that."
France decorated her with its highest military honor, the Legion d'Honneur, as well as three Croix de Guerre and the Medaille de la Resistance.
The United States awarded her its Medal of Freedom and Britain, the George Medal. Her only Australian honor did not come until 2004, when she was made a Companion of the Order of Australia.
Born Aug. 30, 1912, in the New Zealand capital of Wellington, Nancy Grace Augusta Wake was the youngest of six siblings. When she was 2 the family moved to Sydney, but her father left the family soon after and returned to New Zealand.
Wake became a nurse before an inheritance from a New Zealand aunt enabled her to run away from home in 1931 and fulfill her dream of traveling to New York, London and Paris, she said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp. in 1985.
After studying journalism in London, she became a correspondent for The Chicago Tribune in Paris and reported on the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany. A 1933 trip to interview Hitler in Vienna led her to become committed to bringing down the Nazis.
"I saw the disagreeable things that he was doing to people, first of all the Jews," she told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio in 1985. "I thought it was quite revolting."
When World War II broke out in 1939, she was living in the French city of Marseille with her first husband, French industrialist Henri Fiocca. She helped British servicemen and Jews escape the German occupying force.
Her husband was eventually seized, tortured and killed by the Gestapo. But Wake managed to escape in 1943 through Spain to London, where she received the espionage training before helping to lead the French resistance in its final days.
Wake continued working for British intelligence in Europe after the war until 1957, when she moved back to Australia and married British fighter pilot John Forward. She moved back to Britain in 2001, four years after Forward's death. She never had children.
According to her wishes, Wake's body is expected to be cremated privately and her ashes scattered next spring at Montlucon in central France, where she fought in a heroic 1944 attack on the local Gestapo headquarters.
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...
£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...
£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...