White Mouse war legend back where she started

A LIFE REVEALED: The Nancy Wake heritage pylon is unveiled in Oriental Pde.
A LIFE REVEALED: The Nancy Wake heritage pylon is unveiled in Oriental Pde.

Wellington-born Nancy Wake – aka The White Mouse – was the Allies' most decorated servicewoman of World War II, and the Gestapo's most-wanted person.

Now she has been recognised with a new "heritage pylon", unveiled by Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast in Oriental Pde yesterday.

Ms Wake, who was born in Roseneath but left New Zealand as a toddler, was living in France when Nazi Germany invaded during World War II. She joined the French Resistance and was smuggled to England for specialist training.

In 1944 she was parachuted back into France, where she co-ordinated the efforts of thousands of fighters and fought alongside them.

Ms Wake – codenamed the "The White Mouse" because of her ability to elude capture – at one point was No 1 on the Gestapo's most wanted list, with an offer of five million francs for anyone who dobbed her in – or killed her.

In London, in 2006, she was presented with the New Zealand Returned Services Association's Badge in Gold and life membership, for her services in the Special Operations Executive during the war. It was the first time her work was recognised by her country of birth.

She was, however, already the Allies' most decorated servicewoman, collecting bravery awards from France, England, Australia and the United States. Ms Wake, now 97, lives in England.

The heritage pylon is a four-sided sign, similar to others found along the waterfront. The other panels pay tribute to Oriental Bay poet Lauris Edmond and tell of the changing face of the bay and of whaling in Wellington Harbour. The new pylon is near Grass St where Ms Wake was born.

The Dominion Post