11 Mar 2013

War heroine's ashes scattered in France

4:33 pm on 11 March 2013

The ashes of a World War II New Zealand-born secret agent, who died in Britain in 2011, have been scattered in a French forest where she carried out her most perilous operations.

Nancy Wake, Australia's most decorated servicewoman, was known to Nazi Germany's Gestapo as the White Mouse because she was so elusive.

The service took place in a forest near the village of Verneix, whose mayor attended the ceremony, as did an Australian military representative.

It had been Ms Wake's wish that her ashes be scattered in the area, where she played a key role in the resistance movement against German occupation.

She worked as a nurse and journalist but eventually led 7000 men into battle for the French resistance.

She is credited with helping hundreds of Allied personnel and Jews escape from occupied France.

By 1943, she was the Gestapo's most wanted person and was known as the White Mouse for her ability to evade capture.

She discovered after the war that the Nazis had tortured and killed her husband, Henri Fiocca.

The memorial service for Ms Wake, who was fond of an early morning gin and tonic, was followed as she had wished by a very large drinks reception.

Ms Wake was born in the Wellington suburb of Oriental Bay but her family moved to Australia when she was two. She moved to France in her early 20s.

She died at the age of 98 of a chest infection, in the nursing home where she spent the last 10 years of her lilfe.

Ms Wake was highly decorated, having been honoured in Britain, the United States, France and Germany as well as Australia.

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

RSA chief executive Steven Clarke says Nancy was a great New Zealander who showed courage and conviction.

A memorial pylon was erected in 2010 across the street from where she lived in Wellington.