Feminists call for 'White Mouse' memorial

SEASIDE: The Nancy Wake pillar in Oriental Parade, Wellington.
SEASIDE: The Nancy Wake pillar in Oriental Parade, Wellington.

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.

Wake, who was known as the 'The White Mouse' because of her ability to elude capture, was 98 when she died at the weekend in London, where she had lived since 2001.

She had never been formally recognised by the New Zealand government but the RSA did award the war heroine with its highest honour, the RSA Badge in Gold, at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 2006.

Now the Wellington Young Feminists' Collective is calling for a permanent memorial in her name.

"The RSA has led the way but there is nothing specific that the government has done," the collective's Nicole Skews said.

Skews said Wake was part of a shared "heritage pylon" in Oriental Bay, but the group wanted to see a memorial established which specifically related to honouring her efforts.

"Nancy Wake was honoured by four countries and the Commonwealth before New Zealand acknowledged her with a Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association Badge in 2006," Skews said.

"By then she was already one of the most decorated servicewomen from WWII... surely she has shown enough bravery and saved enough lives to warrant her own memorial."

Wake was born in Wellington, but left New Zealand as a toddler.

She was living in France when Nazi Germany invaded and joined the French Resistance where was smuggled into England for specialist training.

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

Wake was at one point number one on the Gestapo's most-wanted list - with an offer of five million francs for anyone who dobbed her in or killed her.

A distant relative, Graeme Wake, met her in England in 1990 and took up the cause to help her receive recognition from the New Zealand Government - a campaign that was active until her death.

He said yesterday he was very disappointed that her death brought an end to the efforts, and he believed it was a lost opportunity for New Zealand.

''When I met her she was always adamant she was a New Zealander, she kept her New Zealand passport right through to when I met her and I believe beyond."

He said successive New Zealand governments had never said why they had declined to recognise Wake, but he understood it may be because she left New Zealand at a young age.

The collective represents 800 men and women and were calling for a Nancy Wake Memorial through a social media campaign, using Facebook and Twitter.

Skews said the group didn't have any specific ideas for a memorial but it would have to be something fitting of a war heroine.

She urged people to write to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, Veteran's Affairs and the Wellington City Council.