Nancy Wake: A biography of our greatest war heroine
Nancy Wake’s biography links strongly into an exploration of the values of freedom, responsibility, integrity and going above and beyond doing your best to the point of risking your own life for your beliefs and for the safety of others.
Have you ever thought that you are like a fly caught in amber, or have you ever you felt self-doubt, a lack of confidence, or thought that you don’t have anything worthwhile to contribute to the world? Then Nancy Wake’s biography is just the inspiration needed to inject a sense of awe and wonder into the possibilities of human endeavour and the challenges the human spirit can conquer. Nancy Wake’s story is not just about her heroism, bravery and courage, it is about what makes ordinary people do extraordinary, unbelievable things and even risk their own lives for others and a principle. As Ms Wake says, ‘Freedom is the only thing worth living for. While l was doing that work l used to think that it didn’t matter if l died, because without freedom there was no point in living.’
Like many of us Nancy Wake’s life was ordinary: a child of the Depression living on a quarter acre block in Sydney, selling eggs to help her struggling mother keep her family afloat while her father was goodness knows where. While Nancy Wake’s life may have been ordinary she lived in an extraordinary time doing extraordinary things. Nancy Wake lived in an era of possibilities: she could either follow the predictable pattern of many of the girls of her time and become a mother and housewife or she could follow the call of her ‘unconquerable soul’. Her choice was made easy by an aunt who bequeathed her 200 pounds which started the adventure of a lifetime.
Nancy Wake was a nurse. She travelled to America, London, Paris and as a war correspondent witnessed Nazi violence in Vienna and covered Hitler’s rallies in Berlin. She married a French industrialist, became a socialite and a British Agent in occupied France, risking her life in the most remarkable ways to save hundreds of Allied Forces and working for the French underground resistance. As a lone woman she was also in charge of hundreds of Maquis. As she says, ‘It wasn’t easy living without even the most basic rudiments of comfort … but there was no choice, I had to be with the Maquis to properly organise and arm them.’
Nancy Wake’s life was rich and colourful and filled with drama and danger. Yet her story is one of faith in one’s self, believing in principles and never saying no regardless of what the difficulties may be placed before you. Her story is recommended reading for anyone seeking inspiration about what the human spirit can achieve.
On 5 June 2005, Nancy Wake, at the age of 93, was decorated with honorary ‘wings’ for her parachute jump into France in 1944. She was honoured by the veterans of the Special Operations Executive of the British Parachute Executive. Her other medals include: Britain’s George Medal, the Medal of Freedom from America and three Croix de Guerre from France.
Nancy Wake – A biography of our greatest war heroine
by Peter Fitzsimons
Harper Collins Publishers