Well done Winston

September 4th, 2012 at 7:14 am by David Farrar

Rather rare for me to praise Winston, but I all thoroughly approve of his action in Parliament last week:

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) : I wonder whether I could ask the leave of the House to move a motion without notice regarding the 100th birthday of Nancy Wake, the Allies’ most decorated female war hero. This is her 100th birthday today.

Mr SPEAKER: Just to get it clear, the member is seeking leave for a motion to be moved without debate to commemorate that occasion. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is no objection.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I regret the collective lack of preparation on this, frankly. I move, That this Housecommemorate the 100th birthday of Nancy Wake, the Allies’ most famous and decorated Second World War hero, remembering that she was, after all, born in New Zealand of both Māori and European background. It is, perhaps, a matter of disappointment that we, as a country, have not acknowledged her in the way that France, the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom have.

I’ve blogged on Nancy Wake often in the past. I knew of course she was born in New Zealand. but didn’t know she was part-Maori. Her parents were Charles Augustus Wake and Ella Rosieur, and it appears Ella’s grandfather Charles Cossell married a Maori “maiden” called Pourewa in 1836 – one of the first ever marriages between races in NZ.

Her biography says that legend has it that Hone Heke wanted Poueewa for himself and had threatened to kill Cossell and Pourewa, but was himself killed before he could.


A memorial for Nancy Wake

August 30th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The life of the woman who became the White Mouse will be remembered in Wellington today at a special service on what would have been her 100th birthday.

Wellington-born World War II heroine Nancy Wake will be honoured at a remembrance service at Old St Paul’s Church in Thorndon.

Organiser Trevor Morley said it was a chance to honour the French Resistance fighter – who died last year – for her bravery and heroism.

Ms Wake, who was born in Roseneath, left New Zealand with her family for Australia when she was 2.

As an adult, she was living in France when the war began. She became a prominent figure in the French Resistance and was nicknamed the White Mouse by the Gestapo for her ability to evade capture.

Her work earned her France’s highest military honour, the Legion d’honneur, as well as three Croix de Guerre medals and a French Resistance medal.

She also received Britain’s George Medal and the US Medal of Freedom, and was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2004.

In 2006, she was the first woman to receive the New Zealand Returned and Services Association’s highest honour, the RSA Badge in Gold. She died last year, weeks before she would have turned 99.

A woman who gave up a life of luxury and privilege to battle the Nazis at huge risk to her life. We owe her a lot.

RIP Nancy Wake

August 8th, 2011 at 11:18 am by David Farrar

Nancy Wake has died. She was born in Roseneath, Wellington in 1912 and gave up a life in France of pleasure and privilege to fight the Nazis. She became the Gestapo’s most wanted person, and was known as the White Mouse.

I could go on for pages about her, but I won’t. I do suggest people read the captivating biography of her which was published some years ago. I’ve blogged on Nancy Wake previously, and am saddened that she has now died without an official New Zealand honour.

She will be mourned amongst all the allied nations of WWII. Her honours include:

  • 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
  • NZ RSA Gold Medal

I hope the NZ Government ensures New Zealand is represented at her funeral.

May her memory go to inspire generations that one woman can make a difference.

More honours for Nancy Wake, except NZ Govt

June 4th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

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.

Sadly the NZ Government still refuses to grant Wake an honour. I’m pretty dismayed that the powers that be seem to have got captured by officials who are more worried about the precedent an honour would create, rather than see it as an opportunity to honour an amazing woman who gave up a life of luxury and privilege to fight evil. The reality is that if NZ did grant Wake an honour, it would be in fact NZ gaining more doing so – proudly claiming Wake as a Kiwi. And Wake herself has been reported as saying she still has her NZ passport, and considers herself more Kiwi than Aussie.

Good on Wellington City Council for honouring Nancy Wake. Maybe that will shame the New Zealand Government into doing the same.

Kiwi Pipe Band in Libya

September 1st, 2009 at 6:34 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

As Robin Loomes prepares to lead his pipe band at a political party in Libya today, a stern message from his mother will ring in his ears.

Mr Loomes, a UnitedFuture candidate in Port Hills in Christchurch at the last election, will lead his pipers and drummers band during celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of the revolution that brought Muammar Gaddafi to power. …

Prime Minister John Key called the tour an “interesting choice of gig”.

The story doesn’t do justice to the PM’s reaction. If you are bored watch his press conference. Most of the questions are what you would expect – on the ETS, mining on DOC land, the SAS in Afghanistan. There was even a question presumably inspired by my blog, about whether Nancy Wake would be given an honour (the answer is it is under consideration for the NY Honours list).

At about 15 minutes into it, the question is asked about the (private) NZ pipe band playing at Gaddafi’s 40th anniversary and the look on Key’s face is priceless. A sort of “what are you expecting me to say” look. He finally mutters how it is an interesting choice of gig.

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 Honours but she wasn’t. I hope she will be, before she dies.

For those who don’t know why Nancy Wake 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.