Updated: Dec 28, 2020
Nancy Wake, (30 August 1912- 7 August 2011), was an extraordinary woman, she was a spy, nurse, and journalist. who joined the French Resistance and later the Special Operations
Executive (SOE) during the Second World War, briefly pursued a post-war career as an intelligence officer in the Air Ministry.
As a European reporter for the American paper, Nancy experienced the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi revolution. In 1939, after marrying the rich French industrialist Henri Fiocca, she settled in the south of France. In May 1940, after France surrendered to Germany, she discovered her call-using her new resources and social status to support members of local resistance movements. In France, the Resistance began as a means of pushing back against the German takeover.
From 1940 to 1943, she worked diligently with the Resistance, doing a multitude of jobs, all dangerous if she was discovered. On learning about her association with the Resistance, the Gestapo, Germany's secret state police, placed her on the most wanted list, but she slipped between her hands so many times that Nancy was code-named 'The White Mouse', But she escaped much time using her greatest tool, her beauty.
However, when the Gestapo closed on her, Nancy understood she had to escape from France. Moving out proved to be challenging. It took six attempts to flee to England. Her husband stayed back in France. Unfortunately, Nancy never got to see him again.
"I hate wars and violence but if we come then I don't see why we women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas."- Nancy Wake
In England, Nancy started training with British Intelligence in the role of Special Operations Executive, SOE, a top-secret wartime covert operations organization. She had trained in the disciplines of espionage and sabotage, studying vital life techniques, hand-to-hand fighting, arms management, codes as well as how to work with explosives. She was one of only 39 women in the SOE and was considered one of the most skilled Resistance fighters. In April 1944, Nancy parachuted back to France. Her task was to train and equip the resistance fighters
called The Maquis for the approaching Allied invasion of mainland Europe.
One of her amazing accomplishments during this period was a risky bike ride to retrieve confidential radio codes. In three days, she rode an astounding 400miles in total bike over rugged terrain, from Auvergne to Châteauroux and back again. Nancy said she volunteered for this mission, as she thought-being a woman-she might get away with the impression that she was a young housewife heading home to her village. She had been passed by several German patrols. This feat was the bravest accomplishment of her life.
Wake and the Resistance conducted an extensive sabotage operation against the German occupying forces in the run-up to the Allied landings in France in 1944. It is also claimed to have lead a raid on the Gestapo headquarters in Montluçon, central France, resulting in the death of 38 Germans.
Nancy Wake, The White Mouse, is amongst the most decorated women of the Second World War. Nancy Wake lived the rest of her life between the United Kingdom and Australia.
She died in London on 7 August 2011, at the age of 98. Her tale of service is that of a courageous and dedicated woman who has displayed exceptional bravery and perseverance in dealing with the French Resistance.
Nancy and her French compatriots played a crucial role in the end of the German conquest of France and in the war's end in Europe.