SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Nancy Wake, a much-decorated World War Two spy and Resistance heroine known as “The White Mouse” for her ability to remain undetected, and who at one point was the Gestapo’s most wanted person, has died in London at the age of 98.
Born in New Zealand, Wake moved to Australia as a toddler, where she was raised. After a brief stint as a nurse, she worked as a journalist in Europe and married a French businessman, Henri Fiocca, in 1939.
Trapped in France when the Nazis invaded, the dark-haired Wake soon became a Resistance courier and later a saboteur and spy. Betrayed, she escaped to London, but her husband was tortured and killed by the Gestapo.
She later parachuted back into France and became a liaison between London and local Resistance groups.
“In my opinion, the only good German was a dead German, and the deader, the better,” she said in an interview in her later years.
“I‘m only sorry I didn’t kill more.”
Her lengthy resume of awards included Britain’s George Medal, the U.S. Medal of Freedom from the U.S. and the Croix de Guerre from France. In 2004 she was made Companion of the Order of Australia.
The resident of a London nursing home for retired veterans since suffering a heart attack in 2003, Wake died on August 7 after being hospitalized for a chest infection. She would have turned 99 on August 30.
“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,” said Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in a statement.
“Today our nation honors a truly remarkable individual whose selfless valor and tenacity will never forgotten.”
Reporting by Pauline Askin; editing by Elaine Lies