“Blisteringly sexy, she killed Nazis with her bare hands and had a 5 million-franc bounty on her head”
The above quote is from a DailyMail.com article describing Nancy Wake, whose larger than life exploits as a member of the French Resistance during World War II earned her France’s highest order of merit, the Legion d’Honneur and the well deserved designation of heroine to the French people and her allies around the world.
Ms. Wake died in 2011, but I thought in honor of France’s historic election today, a post celebrating her life was appropriate. For a depressingly accurate analyses of the dismal candidates of that election, please review x Praetorius’s excellent post on it here.
Back to Ms. Wake. Although she was born in New Zealand and brought up in Australia, Nancy Wake embodied the spirit of the tough as nails French women that made up part of the resistance against Germany. She reminds me too of my late grandmother, also a tough as nails type woman who hid downed American pilots from the Nazis while raising her young family in Southern France.
Known as the “White Mouse” to the Gestapo due to her ability to wriggle out of the numerous traps they set for her, Ms. Wake was widely praised for her bravery in helping thousands escape Nazi occupied France.
An excerpt from the same article:
“And so aggressive was she that, after being parachuted into France as a Special Operations Executive agent, she disposed of a German guard with her bare hands and liked nothing better than bowling along in the front seat of a fast car through the countryside, a Sten gun on her lap and a cigar between her teeth, in search of Germans to kill.”
Yet as fierce as Nancy Wake was, she was equally known for her strong streak of femininity, which provides a fascinating contrast.
“So feminine was she that when escaping from pursuers on one notable occasion, she dressed in a smart frock, silk stockings, high-heeled shoes and a camel-hair coat, arguing that she didn’t want to look like a hunted woman.
In that same outfit, she jumped from a moving train into a vineyard to avoid capture at a Nazi checkpoint.”
What’s not to admire about a woman fleeing Nazis while wearing stockings and high heels?
I think about people like Nancy Wake and my grandmother and wonder, does France have what it takes to produce people of such grit and character? Or have they succumbed entirely to the weakness of the “safety net” mentality, where things like a 40 hour workweek and employees checking email on their off hours are considered hardships that must be banned by the government?
For that matter does America?
We’ll find out soon I guess.
One final quote about the remarkable Nancy Wake from a fellow resistance fighter.
“The most feminine woman I know, until the fighting starts. And then she is like five men.”
Rest in peace brave lady, you deserve it.
Nancy Wake during WWII; Photo Credit: abc.net.au
For more information on the fascinating Nancy Wake go here and here. Also check out the movie inspired by her life called Charlotte Gray starring Cate Blanchett in the lead role.