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An unsung, un-Hollywooded heroine of WW2
on 16 September 2009
If anyone deserved a Hollywood blockbuster to be made about her life story, it is Nancy Wake. This book tells the story of a woman who left her home in Australia and met and married a French man in Marseille before the war. Closely identifying with her adopted country, she worked for the Resistance from her home, and was funded by her wealthy and adoring husband. She ran many risks, and was finally forced to flee the country, escaping over the Pyrenees. But once she was back in Britain, she volunteered to return to France to continue fighting the Germans. She trained as an SOE agent, and was parachuted into France, and by dint of personality, came to command a 7000-strong force of Maquisards, organising parachutages, and fighting alongside them on an equal footage.
The blurb on this paperback says that "her war was full of laughter": this is what she told her biographer. Although his prose is sometimes too flippant, and always displays the "chivalrous" attitudes of his time, it is a well-researched book, and conveys Nancy's character well - she loved dressing well and the high life, and there are many instances of her and her men celebrating royally a particular victory. But she was an extraordinary strategist and leader, and this is what surprises me when I look for other books, or films, about her - the fact that she is so little known. Perhaps this is because she had the fortune to survive, so that there is no tragic ending: she lived to be covered with honours, including the George Medal, and to enjoy a long and happy life.