She was instrumental in helping more than a thousand escaped POWs and RAF personnel out of France. In an age when women were not expected to join combat she is famously quoted as saying: “I hate wars and violence, but if they come I don’t see why we women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas.”
The Gestapo soon learned about her activities and labelled her ‘the White Mouse’. She topped their most wanted list, and a reward of five million francs was offered to anyone who would provide information leading to her capture.
Nancy Wake escaped to England where she joined the French Section of the SOE. In 1944, in preparation for D-Day, she was parachuted back into France and was put in charge of 7,000 Maquis troops engaged in sabotage.
Henri Tardivat, one of her comrades, later said that: “She is the most feminine woman I know, until the fighting starts. Then she is like five men.”