Monday, 26 October 2015
Women Warriors - Nancy Wake, the White Mouse
Here's Nancy Wake, one of the most decorated service women of the Second World War - and one who had a five million franc price on her head at one point!
She was born in New Zealand, and grew up in Australia, and in 1937 she married a Frenchman, so at the outbreak of war she was living in Marseilles. She became a courier for the Resistance, and it was the Gestapo who nicknamed her White Mouse.
When she reached England in 1943, after escaping France over the Pyrenees, she joined the SOE, who parachuted her back into France in 1944. Once there, she co-ordinated groups of maquis - over 7,000 of them - and led raids herself. Once she killed a German sentry with a judo chop to the throat so that he wouldn't raise the alarm.
I saw a film about her a few years ago, (this would have been the 1987 film called Nancy Wake) in which she rode a bicycle for something like 300 miles, through several German checkpoints, to another group of resistance fighters, to use their radio, and then had to carry the answer back to her own group.
It was only when the war had ended that she learned that her husband had been tortured to death by the Gestapo for refusing to tell them where she was.
After the war, she was awarded the George Cross, the American Medal of Freedom, and the French Medal of Resistance and Croix de Guerre, among other honours.
She returned to Australia, where she married again, and she lived to be 98 years old, dying in 2011.