Obituary - Nancy Wake - The White Mouse Passed Away at 98

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Florence, Aug 8, 2011.

  1. Florence

    Florence Member

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    BBC News - Australia WWII heroine Nancy 'White Mouse' Wake dies

    "Nancy Wake, the French Resistance fighter who became Australia's most decorated World War II heroine, has died in a London hospital at the age of 98.

    Born in New Zealand and raised in Sydney, Ms Wake was nicknamed "The White Mouse" by the Gestapo because she was so hard to capture.

    She is regarded as a heroine in France, which decorated her with its highest honour, the Legion d'Honneur, as well as three Croix de Guerre and a French Resistance Medal.

    Ms Wake left Australia and moved to France in 1932, joining the Resistance after the German invasion in 1940 and helping shelter displaced Jews fleeing the Nazi regime.

    She later recounted how she had first become aware of the cruelty of the Nazis during a visit to Austria in 1933.

    "In Vienna they had a big wheel and they had the Jews tied to it, and the stormtroopers were there, whipping them. When we were going out of Vienna they took our photos. That was my experience of Hitler," she said.

    Confirming Ms Wake's death today, New Zealand's veterans' affairs minister Judith Collins hailed her as a woman of exceptional courage and tenacity.

    Family friend Les Partell said Ms Wake was one of the world's greatest women and had a knack for survival.

    "Anyone else would have got knocked off left, right and centre," he said.

    "She was just so good at what she did. She survived. She more than survived, she personified survival. I couldn't imagine her dying anyway, I just couldn't, and I am so surprised."

    Credited with helping to save thousands of lives, Ms Wake was placed at the top of the Gestapo's most wanted list and fled France for England on the advice of her husband Henri Fiocca in 1943.

    "Henri said, 'You have to leave', and I remember going out the door saying I'd do some shopping, that I'd be back soon. And I left and I never saw him again."

    Trained as a spy by Britain's Special Operations Executive, she then returned to Nazi-occupied France to work with the Resistance in preparation for the D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944.

    Parachuted back into France, Ms Wake's job was to distribute weapons among Resistance fighters hiding in the mountains.

    "In those days it was safer, or a woman had more chance than a man, to get around, because the Germans were taking men out just like that."

    To arrange the delivery of weapons and other supplies, messages had to be sent via radio phones.

    Ms Wake's group lost theirs during a raid by German troops.

    This disastrous loss meant Ms Wake had to pedal more than 200km to another radio operator.

    "The blokes didn't think I'd ever get back. I only volunteered for it not because I'm brave but because I was the only one who could do it, being a woman.

    "I got back and they said "How are you?" I cried. I couldn't stand up, I couldn't sit down. I couldn't do anything. I just cried."

    As well as the Legion d'Honneur, Ms Wake was awarded Britain's George Medal and the US Medal of Freedom.

    But despite the international recognition, it took 60 years for Australia to honour her service, awarding her the Companion of the Order of Australia in 2004.

    It is believed Ms Wake's health had recently deteriorated and she was admitted to the Kingston Hospital two weeks ago with a chest infection.

    She had lived in London since 2001.

    In accordance with her wishes, she will be cremated privately and her ashes scattered at Montlucon in central France next spring."

    From ABC news site.
     
  2. Barrakooda

    Barrakooda Member

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  3. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    :salute: A true hero :salute:
     
  4. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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  5. rochie

    rochie Well-Known Member

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    wow what a woman, RIP madam you've earned it
     
  6. Aaron Brooks Wolters

    Aaron Brooks Wolters Well-Known Member

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  7. Coors9

    Coors9 Member

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    God bless you...
     
  8. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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  9. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    Right up there with Violette Szabo. :salute: Rest well.

    So high up on the Gestapo list that they gave her a nickname....dang. That's awesome! Anyone know if there are any books (yet) about her life?
     
  10. Florence

    Florence Member

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    This one is the latest I know of -
    Nancy Wake: A Biography of Our ... - Google Books

    Have seen her interviewed and giving speeches a number of times and the way she said 'The only good germans were dead germans. The deader the better.' You could tell even after all those years how she remembered the war. A brave lady who sacrificed much. Her husband was tortured and killed by the Gestapo but refused to betray her. There was a Tele-movie about her some time back and there is talk of a feature film being made. Hers is quite a story.
     
  11. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    Yeah, I did some searchin on Amazon after I posted that, found one book about her, but the used paperback was going for something like $250.00 (that's three digits to the LEFT of the dollar sign), and a hardcover was listed at $999. I decided to wait on it. This one's a bit better, but $30 for a paperback is still pretty stiff, unless its a signed copy personally made out to myself.
     
  12. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    As a war hero, Nancy Wake was a pioneering feminist that spoke loudly with words and backed them up with actions. She once said,

    "I hate wars and violence, but if they come I don't see why we women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas."

    It was a philosophy she most definitely lived by. At the outbreak of World War II, Wake was working as a journalist; however, instead of thinking that she could most help by telling stories or knitting balaclavas, she felt she could most help by joining the fight. It was a wise decision. By joining the fight, she made such a contribution to the Allied effort that she topped the Gestapo’s most wanted list.

    Hitler's most wanted

    Nancy Wake had a difficult childhood growing up in Sydney. Her mother was a dogmatically strict religious woman. Her father was a journalist who went to live in New Zealand to make a movie about Maoris. He sold the family home and never came back, resulting in his family being evicted. An unreliable father and an oppressively strict mother seemed to breed a rebellious streak in Nancy.

    In 1928, at the age of 16, Nancy commenced work as a nurse. In 1932, she inherited some money and immediately used it to travel to London, then mainland Europe to train and work as a journalist. One of her early assignments was to interview Adolph Hitler. In the same year, she visited Vienna and witnessed the impact of the Nazi regime first hand. She later recounted,

    "The stormtroopers had tied the Jewish people up to massive wheels. They were rolling the wheels along, and the stormtroopers were whipping the Jews. I stood there and thought, 'I don't know what I'll do about it, but if I can do anything one day, I'll do it.' And I always had that picture in my mind, all through the war." It also coloured her opinion of Nazis....she once famously said "the only good nazi is a dead nazi"

    In 1939, German troops invaded Poland, forcing Britain and France to declare war on Germany. At the time, Wake was in England, but she quickly returned to France where she married a handsome wealthy French industrialist, Henri Fiocca.

    Slowly but surely Nancy drew herself into the fight. In 1940 she joined the embryonic resistance movement as a courier, smuggling messages and food to underground groups in Southern France. She also bought an ambulance and used it to help refugees fleeing the German advance.

    As the beautiful wife of a wealthy businessman, she had an ability to travel in a way that few others could contemplate. She obtained false papers that allowed her to stay and work in the Vichy zone in occupied France. She became deeply involved in helping to spirit a thousand or more escaped prisoners of war and downed Allied fliers out of France. Although she was judged to be unruly, her exuberant spirits and physical daring were thought "good for morale''.

    By 1942, the Gestapo had become aware of an unidentified agent that was proving to be a significant thorn in their side. They code named the agent 'the white mouse' and listed her as number one on their wanted list, attracting a five million franc reward.

    With the net closing in, Wake escaped to England where she joined the French Section of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), a unit of 470 specially trained men and women set up to work with local resistance groups in the German occupied territories.

    In 1944, Wake parachuted back into France to help preparations for D-day landings. She was put in charge of an army of 7,000 Maquis troops that engaged in guerrilla warfare to sabotage the Nazis. Henri Tardivat, one of her comrades, later said that:

    "She is the most feminine woman I know, until the fighting starts. Then she is like five men."

    Like a true commander, Wake always put herself in the thick of the action. On one occasion, the supply drops were threatened by the destruction of radio codes. Wake embarked on a marathon bike ride, cycling about 500 km in 72 hours and crossing several German checkpoints, in order to find an operator to radio Britain and request new codes. Wake took responsibility because a woman was deemed to have more chance.

    After the war, Wake received numerous international honours, including the George Medal, the Croix de Guerre, the Medaille de la Resistance, the Chevalier de Legion d'Honneur and the US Medal of Freedom. As for her home country, despite being recommended for medals by the RSL, no official recognition was ever forthcoming. In regards to being overlooked, Nancy was philosophical; once saying :

    'they can stick their award and be thankful it's not a pineapple'.

    In 1949, Nancy returned to Australia and stood as a Liberal Party candidate in the Sydney seat of Barton. In some ways, her decision to enter politics was a shame because it inevitably divided public opinion about her and thus reduced the receptiveness of the Australian people to her story. It also made it difficult for the Labor Party to ever support public celebration of her. Arguably, her story of courage, self-sacrifice, and determination offered more than she could have ever offered as a politician.

    Despite a strong swing in her favour, Nancy didn't win her seat. Nor was she able to find any other suitable employment. She then returned to Britain where she was appointed as a Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) officer in the British Air Ministry. She remained in the post until 1958.

    In 1960, she returned to Australia, and wrote her autobiography. In 1966, she again stood for politics but again failed to win her seat. In 2001, she returned to England to live out her days, with the express wish that her ashes be scattered over France after she died.

    As for how she would like to be remembered, she said she hoped to go down in history as the woman who turned down 7,000 sex-starved Frenchmen. She also said,

    'I got away with blue murder and loved every minute of it.'
     
  13. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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  14. Wayne Little

    Wayne Little Well-Known Member

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  15. Vassili Zaitzev

    Vassili Zaitzev Well-Known Member

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  16. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for consolidating the two threads dealing with the same issue. I didnt realize that someone had already posted.
     
  17. Peebs

    Peebs Member

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    Lest we forget..
     
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