*This entry has been updated to reflect the passing of the late and truly great Ms. Wake. We should all be so lucky to live in such a courageous fashion.

Don’t let the va-va-voom of this dame’s picture fool you. Nancy Wake (1912-2011) was one tough cookie capable of ripping you a new one before her morning tea and Vegemite on toast.

Wake, a native born New Zealander, grew up a free-thinking bird in Australia before flying the coop for life’s great adventures. She worked as a nurse in London, and then later, as a reporter in America. She bounced around Europe, was married, and then joined the Hearst Newspapers’ European outlet in Paris during the build up to WWII.

When Germany invaded France, Wake went to work for the French Resistance. Her Gestapo codename was the “White Mouse” and she apparently ruffled some German’s feathers because Wake managed to earn a bounty on her head of no less than 5 million-francs.

When the resistance group she was with was compromised, Wake had to hot-step it out of France via the Pyrenees Mountains leaving her husband behind. She learned later that he was tortured and killed when he refused to rat her out.

Safe in Spain, Wake made her way to London where she joined the Special Operations Executive and parachuted back into France where she personally led armed resistance against the Germans racking up a fairly significant body count. At one point, Wake even killed an SS soldier with her bare hands when he threatened to ring an alarm during a French Resistance raid. Beat that.

After the war, Wake worked for the British Air Ministry in the intelligence division stationed in Europe. She eventually remarried and returned to Australia. The 2001 movie, Charlotte Gray, starring Cate Blanchette, is loosely based on our gal Nancy.

Her list of numerous honors and the corresponding “bling” is as follows: Britain’s George Medal, Companion of the Order of Australia, the French Legion of Honour, the French Medaille de la Resistance, the French Croix de Guerre (3 times over), the RSA’s Badge in Gold, and the US Medal of Freedom.

And Wake is still with us. As of 2008, she is convalescing in a London “resting home”. Rest? Hell, someone better be waiting on her hand and foot and standing on baited breath as Nancy-pal recounts the good old days. Personally, I could think of no better way to pass the time. This is a dame with a story to tell.


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