Nancy Wake, or ‘The White Mouse’
Wake was born in New Zealand, and grew up in Sydney, Australia, ran away from home to train as a nurse, then went to New York with only 200 Pounds and became a Journalist. She then moved to London, and into France in the 1930s, working for newspapers as a correspondent. When France fell to the Nazis in 1940, she became a courier for the French Resistance, where she developed her nickname ‘the White Mouse’, as she consistently eluded capture. In 1943, Wake was the most wanted person by the Gestapo, who imposed a 5 million-franc price on her head.
She served as a British agent during the later part of World War II, becoming a key figure in the ‘Maquis’ resistance groups, and was one of the Allies’ most decorated servicewomen of the war. Wake 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."
After escaping France via Spain and reaching Britain, Wake joined the Special Operations Executive. Vera Atkins, who also worked in the SOE, recalls her as "a real Australian bombshell. Tremendous vitality, flashing eyes. Everything she did, she did well." Training reports record that she was “a very good and fast shot” and possessed excellent fieldcraft. She was noted to "put the men to shame by her cheerful spirit and strength of character."
On the night of 29–30 April 1944, Wake was parachuted into the Auvergne, serving to form a liaison between London, and the local maquis group headed by Captain Henri Tardivat in the Forest of Tronçais. Upon discovering her tangled in a tree, Captain Tardivat greeted her remarking, “I hope that all the trees in France bear such beautiful fruit this year,” to which she replied, "Don’t give me that French shit.” Her French companions, especially Henri Tardivat, praised her fighting spirit, amply demonstrated when she killed an SS sentry with her bare hands to prevent him from raising the alarm during a raid.
From April 1944 until the liberation of France, her 7,000+ maquisards fought 22,000 SS soldiers, causing 1,400 casualties, while taking only 100 themselves.