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Nancy Wake presented with Badge in Gold
National President John Campbell continues his personal account of his trip to London. On 15 November it was off to the Palace…
Wednesday 15 November
Off Patrick and I went to the Palace.
This was the morning when HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, himself an RNZRSA Badge in Gold Holder and Life Member, would make the presentation, on our behalf, of the Badge in Gold to Nancy Wake the "White Mouse".
A great occasion. We assembled in a magnificent room at the Palace and waited for the Duke. Nancy was in good form, and she had some of her closest surviving friends from her World War Two days and her Special Operation Executive times surrounding her, for what she clearly saw as a special event in her life.
The Duke arrived, and the first thing I noticed was that the only decoration
he wore on his suit was the RNZRSA Badge in Gold!
We departed (in official Palace vehicles) and went to a well known London
Club to celebrate along with Nancy and her friends and carers. We had
a very relaxed and informal time.
So the day ended on a real high.
Nancy Wake – a thumbnail sketch
Nancy Wake was born in Wellington in 1912. Her parents took her to Australia as a baby but she says she still has her New Zealand passport and is still a Kiwi.
When WWII broke out she was working as a journalist, she had interviewed Hitler in 1933, and was living in the south of France. After France surrendered she became a courier for the Resistance and then joined a network helping crashed allied airmen and POW escapers reach Spain. She helped more than 1000 men get away but was betrayed in December 1943.
After many narrow scrapes, including a spell in jail in Toulouse, she made it to Britain where she joined SOE. Nancy had to leave her husband behind and she never saw him again. The Gestapo murdered him because he would not tell what he knew of her whereabouts.
After some months training she parachuted into the French province of Auvergne in April 1944. Liaising between SOE and the local Resistance group she coordinated anti-German activity prior to D Day. She led attacks on German installations and even a Gestapo HQ. Nancy earned the Resistance fighters’ respect by killing a German sentry with her bare hands and also for her capacity to “drink anyone under the table”. She once cycled a return journey of hundreds of kilometres, passing through German checkpoints, to pick up and deliver replacement radio codes. Her courage, good looks and skilful acting got her through.
Britain awarded her the George Medal, France with the Resistance Medal, Officer of the Legion d’Honneur and Croix de Guerre with two bronze palms and a silver star, and the United States of Amercia with the Medal of Freedom.
Australia and New Zealand did not recognise Nancy’s service. The RSL recommended she be awarded a medal but was turned down. Possibly because she was New Zealand born and considered a New Zealander. She had told the NZPA in 1994 that she was still a New Zealander and had kept her New Zealand passport, despite her 80 year absence from New Zealand.
Australia got a “Wake up call” in 2004 and Nancy was made a Companion of the Order of Australia.
The RNZRSA has acted. The question now is, “When will the NZ Government
recognise Nancy Wake?”
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