Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 10, 2011

Vale Nancy Wake (1912-2011)

Australia, New Zealand, Britain and France alike are today mourning the death on August 7th of Nancy Wake, who served as a British agent in World War II.  Born in New Zealand but brought up in Australia, she was living in Marseille during the war when she witnessed German atrocities and was inspired to join a maquis group in the French Resistance and acted as a courier and a saboteur.  Known as The White Mouse, she became one of the’ most decorated servicewomen of the war, receiving the George Medal from Britain for leadership and bravery under fire, the Resistance Medal, Officer of the Legion d’Honneur and Croix de Guerre from France, and the Medal of Freedom from America.  Australia was embarrassingly remiss in recognising her heroism and did not make her a Companion of the Order of Australia until 2004.

I have read a couple of biographies of this courageous woman, to whom so many owe their lives. If you are interested to learn more about her heroic career I recommend Nancy Wake by Russell Braddon and (if you can get hold of a copy)  Nancy Wake: A Biography of Our Greatest War Heroine (2001) by Peter Fitzsimons.


  1. I read the Russell Braddon’s biography of Nancy Wake. What a woman: nothing could stop her. I don’t think her efforts were ever truly appreciated. It was very sad to hear of her death.



    • I’ve read about a few war heroes, but I think I admire her more than anyone.


  2. She was a great lady. At one stage she commanded 7000 French resistance fighters. She was the most highly decorated female of any country during WW2. She even silently killed Nazi SS guards with bare handed karate chops.


    • Hello Tim! Lovely to see you here on ANZ LitLovers:)


  3. I saw video footage of her speaking about her feelings about the Germans. She certainly didn’t hold back! There was somehow a refreshing honesty about it (even though I found myself cringing a bit)- it was a response honed by experience and very much of her time. When we were in London a few weeks ago – ah, I love saying that!! – we heard a sermon at Westminster Abbey exhorting the congregation to praise the resilience of spirit of the Germans after the war. I looked around at the elderly congregation and wondered what they were really thinking as someone born in probably 1960 told them how they should think about Germany today.


    • I hear you, Janine! Forgiveness is one thing, praise is something else entirely.


  4. More praiseworthy is the generous assistance given by the allies to Germany after WW2 under the Marshall Plan.


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