WWII hero Nancy Wake

Black and white photograph of Nancy Wake, a World War II resistance fighter, smiling and looking off to the side. She has curly hair and is wearing a military uniform adorned with a badge and military ribbons on her chest.
Nancy Wake

Snapshot Biography

In look, Nancy Wake was glamorous; in personality, she was a fearless fighter. Rebellious in her way of being, she was born in the picturesque landscapes of New Zealand, but at the age of 16, Nancy ran away from home. Using £200 inherited from an aunt, she traveled to New York City and then to London, where she trained as a journalist.

In the 1930s, she moved again, taking a job in Paris for Hearst newspapers as a European correspondent, witnessing the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement. Another move came a few years later. This time, she went to Vienna, where Nancy observed Nazi gangs beating Jewish men and women in the streets.

After these experiences, Nancy vowed to do anything she could to stop the Nazi movement. “I hate wars and violence but if they come then I don’t see why we women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas,” she would say.

During World War II, Nancy joined the resistance, becoming a Special Operations Executive in Britain, working under the code name “Hélène”. She became a courier and escort for Allied soldiers and refugees looking to leave France. “It was much easier for us, you know, to travel all over France. A woman could get out of a lot of trouble that a man could not,” she remarked regarding the work.

Nancy took part in many missions, and her life was in constant danger. At one time, she was the most wanted person by the Gestapo. But she was always able to elude capture, a skill which earned her the nickname, “The White Mouse.” Her husband, however, was captured and executed for not sharing information about her whereabouts.

Nancy became one of the most decorated servicewomen of the war by the Allies. Looking back, she would remark, “I was never afraid. I was too busy to be afraid.”

After the war, Nancy briefly pursued a career as an intelligence officer in the Air Ministry​​. She passed away on August 7, 2011.


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