‘The White Mouse’ dies

2011-08-08 13:07

Canberra – Australian Nancy Wake, who as a spy became one the Allies’ most decorated servicewomen for her role in the French resistance during World War II, has died in London.

She was 98.

Code named The White Mouse by the Gestapo during the war, Wake died yesterday in a London nursing home, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.

“Nancy Wake was a woman of exceptional courage and resourcefulness whose daring exploits saved the lives of hundreds of Allied personnel and helped bring the Nazi occupation of France to an end,” Gillard said in a statement.

Trained by British intelligence in espionage and sabotage, Wake helped to arm and lead 7 000 resistance fighters in weakening German defences before the D-Day invasion in the last months of the war.

While distributing weapons, money and code books in Nazi-occupied France, she evaded capture many times and reached the top of the Gestapo’s wanted list, according to her biographer, Peter FitzSimons.

“They called her the ‘la Souris Blanche,’ ‘The White Mouse,’ because every time they had her cornered ... she was gone again,” FitzSimons told Australian Broadcast Corporation radio today.

“The Germans were looking for someone who looked like them: aggressive, a man with guns – and she was not like that,” he said.

France decorated her with its highest military honour, the Legion d’Honneur, as well as three Croix de Guerre and the Medaille de la Resistance.

The United States awarded her its Medal of Freedom and Britain, the George Medal. Her only Australian honour did not come until 2004, when she was made a Companion of the Order of Australia.

According to her wishes, Wake’s body is expected to be cremated privately and her ashes scattered next spring at Montlucon in central France, where she fought in a heroic 1944 attack on the local Gestapo headquarters.

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