Australian war hero Nancy Wake, died yesterday in London
She was 98.
Born in Wellington, New Zealand on 30 August 1912 Nancy Grace Augusta Wake was the youngest of six siblings. Her family moved to Sydney when she was two years old
Wake became a nurse before an inheritance from a New Zealand aunt enabled her to leave home in 1931 and fulfill her dream of travelling.
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 to London in 1943 through where she received the espionage training before helping to lead the French resistance in its final days.
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 cornered... she was gone again," he said. "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. She was made a Companion of the Order of Australia.
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.
Rest in peace Nancy Wake
Photo from Wikipedia