Nancy Wake – Antonia Guise

Nancy Wake

Black and white photo of Nancy Wake in uniform

So who is Nancy Wake? And why am I inspired by Her Story?

Our new Chain Bracelet is inspired by Nancy Wake. One of the most decorated spies of WWII. 

Born in New Zealand, Nancy Wake had Maori heritage through her Great Grandmother Pourewa, who was supposedly one of the first Maori women to marry a European. Her family moved to Australia where her father left her mother to bring up Nancy and her 5 siblings on her own. 

Aged 16, Nancy journey to New York and then London where she began training herself to be a journalist. She rose to become Hearst Newspapers European correspondent. During this time she worked in Paris and watched the rise of the Nazi movement first hand. 

She married a wealthy French industrialist and they lived in Marseille together. When France fell in 1940 she used her husband’s fortune to fund an escape network run by Captain Ian Garrow. She used her natural charm and intelligence, to make her way through German checkpoints, smuggling messages for the network. All whilst wearing 6-inch heels. 

She was so successful that the Germans nicknamed her The White Mouse and declarred her their most wanted person with a bounty of 5 million franc on her head. 

Her cover was finally blown in 1943 and Nancy had to escape to Britain where she joined the Special Operations Executive. Nancy was parachuted into occupied France to liaise between the SOE and several resistance groups in the Auvergne. During this time she demonstrated her fearless leadership style, fighting right alongside the men she commanded. During one battle she even killed a German soldier with her bare hands. 

One particularly dangerous mission saw Nancy dressed as a housewife cycle 20km to the nearer town to find the radio operator another radio one which to update London about SOE’s progress. When she reached the nearest town she found that the Germans had already taken command, forcing Nancy to cycle through mountainous, German occupied terrain to find someone with a radio. She rode over 500km in 72 hours - hauling the heavy radio back through German checkpoints undetected.   

Wake once described her tactics: "A little powder and a little drink on the way, and I'd pass their (German) posts and wink and say, 'Do you want to search me?' God, what a flirtatious little bastard I was."

A natural spy, Nancy had a clear sense of her purpose and ability to make a difference in the world, along with a huge appetite for life. Her hard work and heroism during the war earnt her medals from Britain, France, USA, New Zealand and Australia, making her the most decorated Heroine for WWII 

 

Suggested reading: 

 Heroines of SOE, by Beryl E. Escott

The White Mouse, by Nancy Wake

Nancy Wake - The most incredible woman you’ve never heard of 

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