Nancy Wake was born in New Zealand in 1912, her family moving to Australia shortly thereafter. Always an adventurous sort, she ran away from home at 16. She worked as a nurse for a time, eventually traveling to New York and London. In London she began practicing journalism and made those skills useful throughout the 1930s in Paris, France. Her career gave her a unique view into all the events that led up to World War II.
She was living in France when the German armies began to march. Rather than try to flee, she joined up with the French Resistance, first acting as a courier and later helping with the escape network. She was known for being incredibly elusive, a trait that earned her the title of “White Mouse” from the Nazi Gestapo. It also earned her an amazing price on her head from the same group. Ironically, she was arrested once, though they didn’t know who they had and she managed to get herself released in short time.
Eventually, the escape network would be exposed, forcing Wake to flee. She ran to Spain, made her way back to Britain and there joined the Special Operations Executive. It wasn’t long before she was parachuted back into France. There she worked as a liaison between the remnants of the resistance and Britain, as well as helping to recruit new members and dealing with a great number of duties that kept the resistance organized and running smoothly.
Wake was a truly skilled spy, from her espionage abilities to being able to kill people with her bare hands. The tales of Wake’s accomplishments are seemingly endless, and each one is more dramatic than the last. Once the fighting ended, Wake became the most decorated woman in World War II. Since then, many films have been made either about her or in reference to her many deeds. Nancy Wake died last year, at the age of 98.