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Nancy Wake (1912 - 2011)
August 8, 2011 12:05 AM   Subscribe

Nancy Wake AC GM, nicknamed "the White Mouse", was an heroic resistance fighter in Occupied France in the period 1940 - 1944 and reportedly the Gestapo's most wanted person. She died yesterday.

There was an Australian telemovie in 1987. And a book. There's even reportedly a full movie in pre-production.
posted by wilful (45 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
The novel and film Charlotte Gray are also based on her life.
posted by notionoriety at 12:24 AM on August 8, 2011


I'd never heard of her. Thanks for the links--fascinating stuff.

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posted by tzikeh at 12:44 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


the Gestapo's most wanted person

That's a meaningful privilege.

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posted by nicolin at 1:11 AM on August 8, 2011 [12 favorites]


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posted by jsavimbi at 1:23 AM on August 8, 2011


Who says women can't be effective in combat? History is full of counterexamples.

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posted by troll at 1:25 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


She also led attacks on German installations and the local Gestapo HQ in Montlu├žon.[4] From April 1944 to the complete liberation of France, her 7,000 maquisards fought 22,000 SS soldiers, causing 1,400 casualties, while taking only 100 themselves. Her French companions, especially Henri Tardivat, praised her fighting spirit, amply demonstrated when she killed an SS sentry with her bare hands to prevent him raising the alarm during a raid. During a 1990s television interview, when asked what had happened to the sentry who spotted her, Wake simply drew her finger across her throat.

Why waste time making up shit like Inglorious Basterds when there's no movie about Ms Wake?

She also learned that the Gestapo had tortured her husband to death in 1943 for refusing to disclose her whereabouts.

He would have been one of a handful to die without revealing his secrets to the Gestapo.
posted by rodgerd at 1:26 AM on August 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


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posted by pompomtom at 1:35 AM on August 8, 2011


when there's no movie about Ms Wake?

I dunno, why don't you make your own movie? You don't even need to read the links to see there are already 2, with a third on the way.
posted by Wolof at 1:46 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


A young feminists' group is determined to establish a memorial in memory of World War II heroine Nancy Wake.
Wake was the Allies' most decorated servicewoman, collecting bravery awards from France, England, Australia and the United States - but she had never been formally recognised by the country where she was born.


From Wellington's local newspaper (where Nancy was born)
See http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/5410481/Feminists-call-for-White-Mouse-memorial
posted by vac2003 at 1:47 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by smoke at 1:52 AM on August 8, 2011


What an extraordinary woman. And how sad, what happened to her husband Henri.

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posted by lucien_reeve at 1:58 AM on August 8, 2011


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posted by Smart Dalek at 2:08 AM on August 8, 2011


"They could not catch her," he said.

"Whenever somebody dobbed her in, they would go there and she would be gone. Nancy would get away from them.

"The world offered a reward for anyone who could catch The White Mouse. They grabbed her husband, Henri, and the Gestapo tortured him to death."


Today they would call her a terrorist, but everything else about the story seems entirely modern right down to the torturing to death.
posted by three blind mice at 2:22 AM on August 8, 2011


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The more I learn about Nancy the more impressed I am.
posted by dangerousdan at 3:01 AM on August 8, 2011


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posted by Ahab at 3:36 AM on August 8, 2011


Why waste time making up shit like Inglorious Basterds when there's no movie about Ms Wake?

Because Inglorious Basterds was highly entertaining. Did you think it was a docudrama?
posted by the noob at 3:55 AM on August 8, 2011


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posted by quazichimp at 4:07 AM on August 8, 2011


vale.
posted by prettypretty at 4:19 AM on August 8, 2011


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posted by tykky at 4:27 AM on August 8, 2011


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posted by litleozy at 4:36 AM on August 8, 2011


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posted by lilkeith07 at 4:55 AM on August 8, 2011


Thanks for this--I feel woefully ignorant for not knowing more about Wake. A most extraordinary person and life.

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posted by kinnakeet at 5:01 AM on August 8, 2011


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posted by newdaddy at 5:04 AM on August 8, 2011


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posted by Jon_Evil at 5:13 AM on August 8, 2011


It's worth pointing out that after the War she came back to Australia and was very politically active in the post-war, running as a candidate for the Liberal (ie. conservative) Party in several elections. Peace and war, an intercontinental bad-arse.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:43 AM on August 8, 2011


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posted by eriko at 6:00 AM on August 8, 2011


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posted by The Hamms Bear at 6:01 AM on August 8, 2011


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posted by buzzman at 6:01 AM on August 8, 2011


I love it when the good ones live really long, full lives. See also: Miep Gies.

Take that, Gestapo.
posted by orange swan at 6:30 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was reading about Nancy Wake in the paper this morning, and staggered that we never learnt about her at school. Get on that, Australian education system.

What an extraordinary woman.
posted by Georgina at 6:32 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by shakespeherian at 6:46 AM on August 8, 2011


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posted by hillabeans at 6:57 AM on August 8, 2011


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posted by colt45 at 10:20 AM on August 8, 2011



Today they would call her a terrorist

That's because she was a terrorist, and an effective one. Terrorism is a tactic and was widely used against the Nazis in all the occupied countries. The U.S. has used terrorism around the world as have other regimes throughout history.
posted by charlesminus at 12:12 PM on August 8, 2011


Telegraph obituary

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posted by adamvasco at 1:07 PM on August 8, 2011


Today they would call her a terrorist
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That's because she was a terrorist, and an effective one

If by terrorism you mean intelligence operation, smuggling food, providing repatriation for escaped POWs and refugees, clandestine news reporting for a legitimate government in exile, destroying military targets like gun factories and engaging uniform troops in guerrilla warfare in order to stop a genocide - as opposed to directly targeting civilians to advance an agenda, then yeah.

Otherwise, no.

Terrorism is a tactic. That doesn't mean it's interconvertible with other tactics simply because they're related by violence.
Her history is almost textbook guerrilla/resistance warfare. She was a commando and a spy, not a terrorist. Demonstrably.
Terrorists destroy rail stations, not rail bridges. Entirely different methodologies at work there.
This is not to contradict the point that countries use terrorism or that it has to take a particular form. I'd argue the bombing of Dresden was terrorism although it was done with all the regular formality of a military operation.
But terrorism against the Nazi regime was nearly worthless. Most particularly given the command of propaganda, control of information and ideological unity the Nazis had.

Most clandestine efforts were like Wake's. Aimed to support the Allies' resilience and destroy Germany's ability to make war, not at the support of the civilian population. No point in terrorizing people if there's no way to control or spread the message. Under those conditions blowing up a bunch of noncombatants is a waste of ordinance, no matter how scary it is.
So you target supply lines, divert front line troops to hunt you, hit and run, all that. No ideology to the comparison at all, it's a simple, practical difference.

I love this quote from Tardivat:"The most feminine woman I know, until the fighting starts. Then, she is like five men."
posted by Smedleyman at 2:50 PM on August 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Amazing. I'd never heard of her before. Thanks, wilful.

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posted by homunculus at 3:26 PM on August 8, 2011


From the page linked by Smedleyman right up there ^, emphasis mine:

"2001 - On 6 December Wake leaves Australia for good to spend the remainder of her life in Europe. She lives in the Stafford Hotel in London hotel on the proceeds from the sale of her medals. When these funds run out she receives financial assistance from her many admirers.

"There was no point in keeping them," she says of selling her medals. "When I die, I'll probably go to hell and they'd melt anyway. My only condition is when I die, I want my ashes scattered over the hills where I fought alongside all those men."


Sweet Jesus, what a badass!


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posted by hap_hazard at 3:48 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Terrorist? Hardly. She attacked military targets, not civilian ones. Guerrilla warrior, but not a terrorist.

Also today in Metafilter - how the Allies destroyed entire cities full of civilians, with the stated intent of making their enemies capitulate. You want to talk about terrorism?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:37 PM on August 8, 2011


Sweet Jesus, what a badass!


And a bit of a babe.
posted by wilful at 4:38 PM on August 8, 2011


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posted by Gelatin at 4:38 PM on August 8, 2011


I am ashamed to say that I had never heard of her. What a badass, indeed! I will be there for any movie of her life and plan to get her autobiography.

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posted by lesbiassparrow at 9:32 PM on August 8, 2011


documentary (docu-drama?) on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36PtQ3TxZJI
posted by billcicletta at 10:02 AM on August 9, 2011


Daily Mail obit.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:26 PM on August 9, 2011


*Wow*
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 6:47 AM on August 18, 2011


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