Winston Churchill called the British Special Operations Executive his “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.” None of those who served in the SOE were more ungentlemanly than Nancy Wake.

Before she became a legendary figure in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during World War II, Wake was already involved in aiding Allied airmen escape from German-occupied territory. Her early efforts in the escape network showcased her bravery and resourcefulness, setting the stage for her later heroics. Known as  Die “Weisse Maus” (the “White Mouse”) by the Germans, the Gestapo put a $5 million price on her head.

In 1943, Wake joined the SOE and underwent rigorous training, earning praise for her exceptional marksmanship and fieldcraft skills. Vera Atkins, a senior figure in the SOE, described Wake as a “real Australian bombshell” with tremendous vitality and a cheerful spirit that inspired those around her.

Her first major mission with the SOE took place in April 1944, when she parachuted into occupied France as part of a team code-named Freelance. Working tirelessly to coordinate between the SOE and various Maquis groups in the Auvergne region, Wake played a crucial role in organizing resistance efforts against the German occupation.

One of Wake’s most daring actions occurred during a battle between 500 Maquisards and a large German force. Despite facing overwhelming odds, Wake displayed exceptional leadership by ordering a strategic withdrawal to avoid unnecessary casualties. She then cycled hundreds of kilometers to ensure that other resistance groups were informed and coordinated, preventing further engagements that could jeopardize the overall Allied strategy.

Wake’s strategic brilliance and ability to inspire loyalty among her comrades made her a formidable adversary for the Germans. Under her guidance, the Maquis in the Auvergne region became a significant thorn in the side of the occupying forces, engaging in fierce firefights and sabotage operations that disrupted enemy operations.

Wake was as tough as they come.  She  killed a German guard with her bare hands, and shamed her male companions into executing a captured German spy by volunteering to do it herself. (the spy was a young woman)

For her exceptional bravery and contributions to the war effort, Wake received numerous honors, including the George Medal from the United Kingdom, the Medal of Freedom from the United States, and the Legion of Honor from France. These awards reflected the immense respect and admiration she earned from allies and adversaries alike.