SYDNEY, Jan 28 (AFP) – Australian-born Nancy Wake, the wartime French resistance fighter who became her country’s most decorated war heroine, is to receive government assistance in recognition of her contribution, Prime Minister John Howard said Wednesday.
The 91-year-old former secret agent known in wartime France as “the White Mouse” because of her ability to elude capture, resettled in Australia after World War II, but returned to Britain in 2001 to spend the rest of her days among surviving friends there.
While she was living at Port Macquarie north of here a few years ago, she told AFP she loved Australia, but had more friends still alive in Britain and in France and would prefer to live out the rest of her days in Europe. But she had little money left to spend it in much style.
Howard said Wednesday that the government would pay for a carer to take Wake out from the London nursing home where she now lives.
“There’s been discussion with her about these arrangements and she is very happy with them,” Howard told commercial radio here.
“She will be provided with some additional help and some additional support and comfort in her very advanced years and in special recognition of what a remarkable, courageous and special Australian she was and remains.”
Wake grew up in Sydney, then moved to France while in her early 20s to work as a journalist.
While living in Paris she met and fell in love with a handsome, rich French man called Henri Fiocca. “He was a lovely bloke, the love of my life,” she often said of the man she married in 1939.
During a visit to Austria in 1933 she said she had been horrified by some of the things she witnessed there, including ill-treatment of the Jews by the Nazis.
Then as the Germans invaded France, she and her husband decided to join the French resistance, helping allied pilots and soldiers flee France.
Her husband was caught and executed by the Nazis and she became one of the Gestapo’s most-wanted fugitives.
Then she escaped to Britain where she was properly trained as an agent and parachuted back into France to help undermine the Germans, her famous exploits subsequently becoming the subject of films and books.
With the George Medal, Legion d’honneur, Croix de Guerre, French Resistance Medal and US Medal of Freedom, Wake was by Australia’s most decorated servicewoman and the Allied Forces most decorated servicewoman of World War II.
Subject: France news