Nancy Wake

August 31st, 2009 at 11:53 am by David Farrar

Nancy Wake turned 97 yesterday.

I was very critical of the former Government’s refusal to give Wake an honour. Judith Collins did a fine job campaigning for her to be honoured.

I was hoping that she would finally be honoured in the 2009 Queen’s Birthday but she wasn’t. I hope she will be, before she dies.

For those who don’t know why should be honoured, here’s an extract:

After the fall of France, she became a courier for the French Resistance and later joined the escape network of Captain Ian Garrow. The Gestapo called her the “White Mouse”. The Resistance had to be very careful with her missions as her life was in constant danger and the Gestapo were tapping her phone and intercepting her mail. By 1943, she was the Gestapo’s most-wanted person, with a 5 million-franc price on her head. …

From April 1944 to the complete liberation of France, her 7000 maquisards fought 22,000 SS soldiers, causing 1400 casualties. 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.

Wake has the following honours:

  • George Medal
  • Companion of the Order of Australia
  • US Medal of Freedom with Bronze Palm
  • Légion d’honneur (the highest French decoration)
  • Croix de guerre

The NZ RSA have also given Wake their gold medal. It would be good to see the NZ Government honour her also.

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38 Responses to “Nancy Wake”

  1. backster (2,171 comments) says:

    She stands head and shoulders above most of those with the Countries highest honour and should be accorded it without delay.

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  2. scanner (340 comments) says:

    It will never happen, unfortunately, she was neither a rugby player, a politician, or a suckhole attached to a political party, and I almost forgot a dyke, or a union hack.

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  3. F E Smith (3,305 comments) says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Surely she should be awarded at least a knighthood, if not the ONZ? It is disgraceful that so many other countries have honoured her before we got around to it.

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  4. TripeWryter (716 comments) says:

    It does seem a mystery why she was never honoured by the Glark government, who was keen to honour scientists such as Alan Macdiarmid, and I was surprised that she didn’t get a damehood in the latest round of honours. The British and the French show her more care and respect than we do — the Prince of Wales pays her bills, the French have never forgotten her. I’m surprised too that given her Maori background (Ngati Kahu, Far North), there hasn’t been a push from there.

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  5. Cerium (23,559 comments) says:

    Maybe she has declined honours.

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  6. andrei (2,639 comments) says:

    I expect that the fact she has never really lived in New Zealand might have a bearing on this – and the fact the New Zealand was not heavily involved in the campaign to liberate France which taken together might make the reasons for conferring a New Zealand specific honor somewhat tenuous.

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  7. kaya (1,360 comments) says:

    Even if only one quarter of that was true it is enough to put her at the top of the honours list and it is sad that this hasn’t been recognised earlier.

    No offence to the others but if a couple of opera singers and a squash player are deemed worthy then this woman is tenfold.

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  8. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    Yeah but would Sue Bradford and her Greenies agree to honour someone for violence?

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  9. bharmer (687 comments) says:

    TripeWryter (85) Vote: 1 0 Says:
    August 31st, 2009 at 12:09 pm
    “It does seem a mystery why she was never honoured by the Glark government …. ”
    Or indeed by any of the governments led by Fraser, Holland, Holyoake, Nash, Holyoake, Marshall, Kirk, Rowling, Muldoon, Lange, Palmer, Moore, Bolger, or Shipley.

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  10. TripeWryter (716 comments) says:

    Cerium:
    She has not declined honours from anyone. Not from the RSA, whose gold badge was presented to her at Buckingham Palace by the Duke of Edinburgh, nor from The Parachute Regiment, which presented her with an award for parachute jumps.

    Andrei:
    Yes, she left New Zealand with her parents when she was aged 2. Despite living overseas for 95 years she still identifies as a New Zealander and still has a New Zealand passport.

    Bharmer: yes, fair point. I’ll give you a thumbs-up for it. I was thinking about how in the last 20 years we have tried hard as a country to honour people who had not been honoured before.

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  11. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    Would National for that matter, in the climate they have created in NZ right now?
    I mean parents are being investigated/prosecuted for a smack/beat/hit of their kids.
    So is it right to honour someone for violence in NZ now?

    What is acceptable violence?
    She was never caught/prosecuted so is she a criminal still or because we won, did that become a moot point?
    She killed and directed people being killed and no doubt other horrible stuff behind the lines in civilian areas.
    Probably only against Germans but maybe not.

    No doubt they had terrible things done to them.
    No doubt they felt hopeless and angry.
    No doubt they thought what they were doing was right and against evil.

    But should we honour that in this enlightened day and age?
    Well Mr Key what and when is violence acceptable and what is your definition of violence?

    Is ignoring the electorate a form of violence?

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  12. Cerium (23,559 comments) says:

    “She has not declined honours from anyone”

    How do you know that?

    “If the nomination is successful the nominee will be formally asked by the Governor-General whether the proposed honour is acceptable to them before their name is recommended to The Queen.”

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  13. PaulD (97 comments) says:

    “People like Nancy Wake, for what she did, she should have had the George Cross. But nevertheless, all that’s behind us now” – Betty Boothroyd former Speaker of the House of Commons. That’s where the omission was made. What honour is there being lumped in with professional sportsmen?

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  14. Will de Cleene (485 comments) says:

    Fully support Nancy Wake getting officially recognised. There’s a gap in the Order of New Zealand list that would befit her service.

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  15. MT_Tinman (3,184 comments) says:

    Having read the Wikipedia article I think the current situation is correct.

    No doubt the lady was remarkable.

    No genuine connection to NZ (after two years old) that should prompt NZ govt. action above that of the RSA.

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  16. BlairM (2,339 comments) says:

    Yes, to my mind it’s not our government’s problem.

    What I want to know is when is the New Zealand government going to honour Alan Bevin, the hero of 9/11? Surely he deserves a posthumous George Cross?

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  17. Gulag Archipelago (146 comments) says:

    Start a petition so a true national heroine can be honoured.

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  18. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    referendums/petitions are bullshit now didn’t you know.

    what will they listen too, any ideas?

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  19. Cerium (23,559 comments) says:

    Don’t need a petition.

    NOMINATING A PERSON FOR AN HONOUR
    Anyone can nominate a person who they think is worthy of a New Zealand Royal Honour. The nominator needs to complete a nomination form and forward it to the Prime Minister.

    http://www.dpmc.govt.nz/honours/nominations/form.html

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  20. oxymoron (32 comments) says:

    Don’t know why you’re moaning here on this blog. For those who think a NZ honour is deserved, why don’t you have a meeting, and fill out the form at http://www.dpmc.govt.nz/honours/nominations/form.html and make your case? Incidentally, a vacancy for the honours committee has been advertised on jobs.govt.nz recently…

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  21. scanner (340 comments) says:

    Truth be known it is probably more of an honour to not give her an NZ award, especially when it then puts her in the same elite company as Colin”Solid As” Meads, Roger “Because I’m Entitled To It” Douglas, Russell “Gosh Thats a Lot Zeros On the Cheque” Coutts and Stephen “Made in China” Tindall amongst many others.
    When you look through the honours lists at http://www.dpmc.govt.nz/honours/lists/ there are certainly many people who have both earned and deserved the titles given to them, but there are also a huge number of people buried in the list whose skill lies as corporate raider/rapist, or political hack, and just to prove we aren’t racist they have been handed out through the treaty process as well.
    The awards given to Nancy probably mean something to her, perhaps it’s best we don’t tarnish them with one of our “Mail Order” knighthoods.

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  22. Gulag Archipelago (146 comments) says:

    oxymoron
    excellent link. thanks

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  23. andrei (2,639 comments) says:

    Why single out Nancy Wake in particular for a New Zealand honor?

    What she did was dangerous and glamorous – other New Zealanders did other thing equally as brave and dangerous perhaps less glamorous.

    Consider the merchant seamen – stokers perhaps working below the waterline in a tanker. Prime U boat targets and virtually no hope of survival if torpedoed. Yesterday was the day the Merchant seaman of WW2 were commemorated, how many of you knew that?

    And how many readers now that the British merchant service had the highest casualty rate of any of the services in WW2.

    But it is not glamorous – so no honors.

    [DPF: What Wake did was not glamorous. To the contrary she gave up a life of wealth and glamour to make a difference. And she didn't do it just once or twice. She put herslef individually into extreem danger on numerous occassions. Despite being the most hunted women in Europe, she kept going back into Nazi territory]

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  24. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    scanner says:

    Truth be known it is probably more of an honour to not give her an NZ award, especially when it then puts her in the same elite company as Colin”Solid As” Meads, Roger “Because I’m Entitled To It” Douglas, Russell “Gosh Thats a Lot Zeros On the Cheque” Coutts and Stephen “Made in China” Tindall amongst many others.

    I agree entirely. An honour used to be about what you’d done to help others. Now it’s about what you’ve done to help yourself. So you’re a great sportsman or a successful businessman… well good on, but you’ve already presumably got the pride and satisfaction that made you embark on that career, and bags of money as well. And even if you give some away, well it’s easy when you’ve got plenty left over and everything you could possibly want that money can buy.

    The really deserving recipients are down there among the QSOs and similar “low level” awards — heroes who’ve given thousands of hours delivering meals on wheels or working with the disabled or children with cancer and suchlike.

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  25. TripeWryter (716 comments) says:

    And how many readers now that the British merchant service had the highest casualty rate of any of the services in WW2.

    I thought RAF Bomber Command did.

    Yes, Rex, and others, yes, yes, I agree with you. There is always someone else. There is always someone who SHOULD have been honoured, but they weren’t — Elliott got it, or Upham or, or, and, and, and what about …? But many regard this woman as the bravest of the war. Now: was she any braver than countless women of London or Coventry, or Rotterdam, or Warsaw, or Hamburg, or Dresden. I don’t know.

    Perhaps there is something to be said for having no honours at all, so that no-one will be overlooked, no-one will miss out, and no-one will get anything because they might be the wrong person ….

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  26. TripeWryter (716 comments) says:

    ‘And how many readers now that the British merchant service had the highest casualty rate of any of the services in WW2.’

    I thought RAF Bomber Command did.

    Yes, Rex, and others, yes, yes, I agree with you. There is always someone else. There is always someone who SHOULD have been honoured, but they weren’t — Elliott got it, or Upham or, or, and, and, and what about …? But many regard this woman as the bravest of the war. Now: was she any braver than countless women of London or Coventry, or Rotterdam, or Warsaw, or Hamburg, or Dresden. I don’t know.

    Perhaps there is something to be said for having no honours at all, so that no-one will be overlooked, no-one will miss out, and no-one will get anything because they might be the wrong person ….

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  27. TripeWryter (716 comments) says:

    How did that happen?

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  28. andrei (2,639 comments) says:

    I thought RAF Bomber Command did.

    Well you thought wrong – Merchant sailors were civilians not counted in the armed services and they were in the front line for the entire war – The first and last British casualties of the war were merchant seamen. Bomber crews did do a highly risky job but only for short periods at a time – and their missions they flew were limited. But when it comes down to it you are just as dead if your bomber got shot down as you would be if your tanker got torpedoed.

    If I get the chance I’ll dig up the actual figures later

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  29. Kris K (3,570 comments) says:

    MikeNZ 12:31 pm,

    Would National for that matter, in the climate they have created in NZ right now?
    I mean parents are being investigated/prosecuted for a smack/beat/hit of their kids.
    So is it right to honour someone for violence in NZ now?

    What is acceptable violence?
    She was never caught/prosecuted so is she a criminal still or because we won, did that become a moot point?
    She killed and directed people being killed and no doubt other horrible stuff behind the lines in civilian areas.
    Probably only against Germans but maybe not.

    No doubt they had terrible things done to them.
    No doubt they felt hopeless and angry.
    No doubt they thought what they were doing was right and against evil.

    But should we honour that in this enlightened day and age?
    Well Mr Key what and when is violence acceptable and what is your definition of violence?

    Is ignoring the electorate a form of violence?

    Very good points Mike.
    I think most people missed it though.

    Like you implied: If Key et al regard it acceptible to criminalise parents for raising well disciplined kids by applying the occassional smack if and when required, then on the same basis, if the government is going to be consistent, perhaps, rather than honouring her, they will try to extradite her so that she can be brought to trial for either ‘crimes against humanity’ or ‘terrorism’.

    Mind you, Key has already revealed his hypocritical duplicity. So it’s a bob each way for me.

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  30. wikiriwhis business (3,996 comments) says:

    ““It does seem a mystery why she was never honoured by the Glark government …. ”
    Or indeed by any of the governments led by Fraser, Holland, Holyoake, Nash, Holyoake, Marshall, Kirk, Rowling, Muldoon, Lange, Palmer, Moore, Bolger, or Shipley.”

    Quote of the week.

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  31. John Ansell (874 comments) says:

    Why shouldn’t we recognise this great New Zealand-born heroine as one of our own?

    After all, plenty of our heroes have done their best work in England, the US and other far-flung parts (Rutherford, Lovelock, Mansfield, Pickering and Rewi Alley spring to mind).

    At least Nancy Wake stayed in the neighbourhood.

    Why not add her name to those of Upham and Freyberg and Park? What’s the downside?

    Make her Dame Nancy. She’d be chuffed, and if it inspires one young New Zealander to do something brave and selfless, it would be well worth it.

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  32. TripeWryter (716 comments) says:

    ‘… of any of the services’

    Andrei:
    I don’t want to get into disagreeable debate with you over this. But you did refer to the merchant seamen, civilians, as being in the services.
    If they were civilians, they weren’t in the services, and vice versa.
    Bomber Command’s losses were 55,000 killed, 47,000 of those on operations. Total casualties were 75,000, nearly 60 percent of the 125,000 aircrew. It is generally accepted (Lost Command, by Alistair Revie, 1971, and Night After Night, by Max Lambert, who used the same figures) that Bomber Command’s casualty rate was the highest among Britain’s armed forces. In other words, the services.
    Your figures about merchant seamen, and your assertion that they were the first and last casualties of the war, might well be correct.
    In my life I have had colleagues who served in the Merchant Navy during the war. I was pleased to see a few years back that one of them was among a group who received honours from the Russian government. He described the Murmansk run as just being very hard.
    I have also had colleagues, and a neighbour, a Canadian, who flew raids in Bomber Command. I would say that both occupations were exceedingly dangerous, not for the faint-hearted, and so they were not faint-hearted. I don’t know how they did it.

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  33. andrei (2,639 comments) says:

    No need for disagreeable debate TripeWryter. Its comes down to semantics and how you crunch numbers when all is said and done as you say “both occupations were exceedingly dangerous, not for the faint-hearted, and so they were not faint-hearted. I don’t know how they did it.” .

    [DPF: What Wake did was not glamorous. To the contrary she gave up a life of wealth and glamour to make a difference. And she didn't do it just once or twice. She put herslef individually into extreem danger on numerous occassions. Despite being the most hunted women in Europe, she kept going back into Nazi territory]

    Being an SOE agent in occupied Europe is gist for novels and movies – which is not to say it isn’t heroic because it is absolutely heroic! But so is being a member of the black gang below the water line in a Tanker loaded to the gunnels with high octane aviation fuel, a thankless task and one no less, probably more, important to the eventual outcome of the war but not a role suitable for the main protagonist in a movie – which is what I meant by glamorous.

    I guess that I feel that singling this woman out for more special honors ignores people who were equally or more heroic during that terrible struggle.

    As a child I heard first hand stories of terrible deprivation, hardship and some heroism of those days which will forever go unlauded and unrecognized. One woman I knew was a partisan whose parents were murdered and her husband killed, nobody was ever going to award her any honors or even take much interest in her story, alas I only know a tiny part of it but what I do know was quite interesting and very very tragic.

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  34. James (1,338 comments) says:

    “From April 1944 to the complete liberation of France, her 7000 maquisards fought 22,000 SS soldiers, causing 1400 casualties. 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.”

    She would have been top recruitment material for the Inglorious Basterds!

    ;-)

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  35. Paul Williams (878 comments) says:

    Haven’t followed this but read Fitzsimons’ book, it’s a great read.

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  36. Ross Miller (1,704 comments) says:

    It is disingenuous to bring the anti-smaking debate into this and it is just plain silly to do so. The actions of Nancy Wake stand alone and she deserves recognition. But what we do not know (and will never know unless NW makes it public) is whether she was offered and declined an award.

    Nancy lives in the Star & Garter Home in London and access to her is strictly controlled through her Australian lawyer. The fact that in the last few years she accepted an Australian Award (AC) is probably due largely to the fact that while she does indeed hold a NZ Passport she was active in Australian politics and stood as a Liberal Party candidate for the Senate in the 1949? election.

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  37. MyNameIsJack (2,415 comments) says:

    andrei (310) Vote: 2 1 Says:

    August 31st, 2009 at 5:20 pm
    I thought RAF Bomber Command did.

    Well you thought wrong – Merchant sailors …

    No such beast, andrei. They were Merchant Seamen, some of them were just boys, but they were doing a Man’s job. Sailor is a term reserved for those in fancy uniforms or those who spend their weekends muicking about in boats.

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