The White Mouse of WWII

Nancy Wake was born in New Zealand on August 30, 1912. She had five older siblings and was only 2 years old when her family moved to Sydney, Australia.

She was 16 years old when she began what would become one of the most amazing careers ever. Nancy ran away from home to become a nurse. She also taught herself how to be a journalist. She put these skills to use when she worked as a correspondent in the 1930s for Paris and Hearst newspapers. This experience gave her a unique view of the rise of Hitler and the Nazi movement.

Nancy married Henri Edmond Fiocca on November 30, 1939. He was a French industrialist which is why they were living in France when it was invaded by Germany. During this time, Nancy worked as an ambulance driver before working on the Pat O’Leary Line. This was a network set up to help people escape France.

It was during this time that Nancy earned the nickname the “White Mouse.” It was given to her by the Gestapo. She earned this nickname because she was so good at escaping capture.

During late 1942 and 1943, Nancy attempted to leave France while her husband stayed behind. Nancy was arrested but was released four days later. This was done with the help of the head of the O’Leary Line. Her husband was captured, tortured and executed by the Gestapo. Nancy did not learn about this until the war was already over.

After she finally escaped from France, Nancy ended up in Britain. While there she joined the Special Operations Executive and received training in several different programs.

During her time with the SOE, Nancy parachuted into France. She became tangled in a tree where she was discovered by a resistance leader by the name of Henri Tardivat. It is reported that the said, “I hope that all the trees in France bear such beautiful fruit this year.” Nancy Wake replied, “don’t give me that French shit.”

This was just one example of Nancy’s strong personality. Her strength served her well and she had many amazing stories that came out of her time with the SOE.

After the war, Nancy returned to Great Britain. She was also awarded many different medals. These included the George Medal, the United States Medal of Freedom, the Medaille de la Resistance and the Croix de Guerre. Nancy also went to work for the intelligence department at the British Air Ministry.

In the 1950s, Nancy worked as an intelligence officer in the department of the Assistance of the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff at the Air Ministry located in Whitehall, England. She resigned from this position in 1951 when she married RAF officer John Forward.

John Forward died on August 19, 1997. After his death, Nancy made her way to London. She ended up living at the Stafford Hotel in St. James Place. The majority of the costs associated with her stay were covered by the owners.

Nancy then moved to the Royal Star and Garter Home for Disabled Ex-Service Men and Women located in Richmond, London. She lived there until her death on August 7, 2011.

Nancy’s Honors

  • appointed Chevalier (Knight) of the Legion of Honour in 1970 and was then promoted to Officer of the Legion of Honour in 1988
  • Commonwealth of Australia – Companion of the Order of Australia
  • United Kingdom – George Medal
  • United Kingdom – 1939-1945 Star
  • United Kingdom – France and Germany Star
  • United Kingdom – Defence Medal
  • United Kingdom – War Medal 1939-1945
  • French Republic – Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur
  • French Republic – Officier de la Legion d’Honneur
  • French Republic – Croix de Guerre
  • French Republic – Medaille de la Resistance
  • United States of America – Medal of Freedom
  • New Zealand – Badge in Gold

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