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RSA mourns WW2 heroine Nancy Wake

8 August 2011

RSA mourns WW2 heroine Nancy Wake

The Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association is greatly saddened by the news of the death of New Zealand veteran Nancy Wake in London yesterday, aged 98.

Nancy Wake was the Allies' most decorated World War 2 servicewoman for her work with the French Resistance.

“With her death New Zealand and the world has lost an inspirational heroine of the Second World War,” says RSA National President Don McIver.

Born in New Zealand in 1912, Ms Wake grew up in Sydney when her family moved to Australia when she was a baby, but she never forgot her New Zealand roots and travelled on a New Zealand passport.

In her 20s she travelled to Europe where she witnessed Hitler's Nazis persecute the Jews and blacks in the 1930s in Vienna and Paris. When France was occupied by the Nazis in 1940 she and her French husband, who was later executed by the Nazis, became active in the resistance movement.

Ms Wake saved thousands of Allied lives, including New Zealand airmen, by setting up escape routes and sabotaging German installations.

Later trained as a Special Operations Executive by the British and repatriated into occupied France, she led 7000 resistance fighters in D-Day preparations and was on top of the Gestapo's most wanted list, known as the “White Mouse” because of her ability to evade capture.

“Nancy Wake is an example to us all in risking her own life to save the lives of others and for making a stand for freedom and all that is good,” says Mr McIver.

Ms Wake is regarded as a heroine in France which decorated her with its highest military honour, the Legion d'Honneur, as well as three Croix de Guerre and a French Resistance Medal.

She was also awarded Britain's George Medal, the US Medal of Freedom and the Companion of Australia.

In late 2006, Nancy Wake received the RSA’s highest honour, the Badge in Gold and Life Membership, at a special presentation at Buckingham Place. Ms Wake was the first woman to join the very illustrious band of RNZRSA Badge in Gold holders; including Sir Winston Churchill, Lieutenant General Lord Freyberg, two monarchs and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

“The RSA is very proud that her peers in New Zealand acknowledged Nancy’s incredible war service in her lifetime,” says Mr McIver

“With her comradeship, compassion, courage and commitment Nancy Wake exemplified the Anzac spirit and the RSA will ensure that this great New Zealander will continue to inspire future generations”, says Mr McIver”


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