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Portrait of Nancy Wake

Portrait of Nancy Wake

Nancy Wake was born in New Zealand in the August of 1912 and she died in 2011. In 1914 her family moved to North Sydney, Australia, where she lived until she was sixteen years old. At sixteen, she ran away from home to work as a nurse. Using her 200 pound sterling inheritance that she received from a family member, she traveled to New York and London, where she studied journalism. She became a European correspondent during the rise of the Nazi Regime, and witnessed the horrors that pro-Nazis inflicted on the Jewish populations. In 1939 she married Henri Edmond Fiocca, a very wealthy industrialist. They were living in Marseilles when Germany invaded. When France fell in 1940, Wake became a courier for the French Resistance, and helped in Captain Ian Garrow’s escape network to evacuate the victims of the Nazis. While working for the Resistance and Ian Garrow, Wake was dubbed “The White Mouse” by the Nazis, because of her ability to escape capture. By 1943 Wake was one of the Resistance’s most wanted operatives with a five million franc price on her head. She decided to flee Marseilles so she would not bring her husband into the crosshairs. He was later captured, tortured, and executed by the Gestapo. When Wake heard of this, she blamed herself.

In Britain, Wake joined the SOE, or the Special Operations Executive, an organization that conducted espionage, sabotage, and reconnaissance against the Axis powers. Wake’s quick-learning was recorded in training reports and her teachers said that she was a good shot and was potentially excellent for fieldwork. In late April of 1944, Wake was parachuted into Nazi-occupied France and became a member and agent for the maquis group that was lead by Captain Henri Tardivat. Her duties for the group were to distribute arms, ammunition, and other supplies, looking over finances, recruitment, and leading guerrilla attacks against the Gestapo’s headquarters. She was considered to be an excellent and calculating agent.

From 1944 until France’s liberation, the 7,000+ strong maquis group caused 1,400 casualties for the enemy, while only losing 100 agents themselves. Wake had no qualms about killing Axis soldiers, and says so in numerous interviews about her time as a maquis agent.

Legacy: Nancy Wake was decorated with medals and titles for her participation and aid during World War II. Her decorations are as follows:

Companion of the Order of Australia, The George Medal, Officier de la Légion d’Honneur, The Croix de Guerre (three times), The Medal of Freedom, and the RSA Badge in Gold.

Croix de Guerre (picture by Francis Browne)

Croix de Guerre (picture by Francis Browne)

She published an autobiography called The White Mouse. 

Wake, Nancy. “The White Mouse”. Multiple Publishers. 1986.