Kiwi Heroine Among the Greats
New Zealand World War II heroine Nancy Wake has been named by Global Post as amongst the greatest female warriors off all time. In Jessica Phelan’s article – Seven of the most badass women who ever lived (who you’ve probably never heard of) – Wake is placed alongside Rome’s Celtic nemesis Boudica, Mongolian warrior princess Khutulun, Japanese samurai Tomoe Gozen, Mai Bhago, the Sikh Joan of Arc and Russian war heroine, Maria Bochkareva.
Lofty companions but Wake’s war record supports her inclusion.
As the pen portrait notes, she was the Allies’ most decorated servicewoman and the feared Gestapo’s most wanted person. It was the Nazis who nicknamed her “the white mouse,” because of her repeated ability to avoid capture.
One newspaper even described her exploits as making novelist Sebastian Faulkes’ fictional Charlotte Grey “read like an Enid Blyton girls’ school frolic”.
Wake was living in Marseilles with her French husband when Germany invaded, and she joined the French Resistance in 1940, initially as a courier smuggling messages and food, then helping escaped prisoners of war flee to Spain.
By 1943, she had a five million franc bounty on her head and was forced to flee but in Britain she joined the French section of the British Special Operations Executive, training in survival skills, silent killing, codes, radio operation, night parachuting, plastic explosives, Sten guns, rifles, pistols and grenades.
In April 1944, she parachuted back into France in the Auvergne region to help organise resistance prior to D-Day. She led an estimated 7,000-strong Resistance Force against 22,000 German troops, inflicting severe damage and casualties.
Other escapades included a 500km ride through enemy territory to acquire necessary radio codes, organising the defence against 22,000 SS troops resulting in 1,400 German fatalities, leading a raid on Gestapo headquarters in Montucon, killing a sentry with her bare hands and shooting her way out of road blocks.