9 Aug 2011

Gillard pays tribute paid to Nancy Wake

3:39 pm on 9 August 2011

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has paid tribute to Nancy Wake, one of the most highly decorated women in World War II, who died in London on Sunday.

Ms Gillard said Mrs Wake was ''a truly remarkable individual whose selfless valour and tenacity will never be forgotten''.

''Nancy Wake was a woman of exceptional courage and resourcefulness whose daring exploits saved the lives of hundreds of Allied personnel and helped bring the Nazi occupation of France to an end,'' she said.

After the fall of France in 1940, Ms Wake became a French Resistance courier and later a saboteur and spy.

She worked for British Special Operations and was parachuted into France in April 1944 before D-Day to deliver weapons to Resistance fighters.

''Freedom is the only thing worth living for. While I was doing that work, I used to think it didn't matter if I died, because without freedom there was no point in living,'' Ms Wake once said of her wartime exploits.

The Gestapo named her the White Mouse because she was so elusive.

After the liberation of France she learned her husband, businessman Henri Fiocca, had been tortured and killed by the Gestapo.

''I have only one thing to say: I killed a lot of Germans, and I am only sorry I didn't kill more,'' she once said.

She was Australia's most decorated servicewoman, and one of the most decorated Allied servicewomen of World War II.

France awarded her its highest honour, the Legion D'Honneur as well as three Croix de Guerre and a French Resistance Medal.

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

The New Zealand Returned and Services Association awarded her its highest honour, the Badge in Gold.

New Zealand Veterans' Affairs Minister Judith Collins described Nancy Wake as a woman of exceptional courage and tenacity, who cast aside all regard for her safety and put the cause of freedom first.