GANEIDA'S KNOT.

Go mbeannai Dia duit.

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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I hope to go down in history as the woman who turned down 7,000 sex-starved Frenchmen. ~ Nancy Wake.

When I plan out Star's curriculum I try & go for things that are a little left of centre, a little unusual, or just downright odd. This term it was all about the Resistance movement of WWII. Let's face it, my ditzy daughter was never going to be interested in how many bren guns were used, or points of military strategy [as the Irish lads, who are, will testify], or what the different planes looked like. She liked Hitler strutting round like a little rooster. He was a vegetarian & built the autobahns which are still the best roads in Europe. Sorry. Digressing.

That being so we looked at the war from a slightly different angle. I don't know that Star was all that impressed but I was. The Dutch implemented a series of strikes while under German occupation, the only occupied country to so blatantly offer passive resistance to the Germans. It also gave us a chance to read about one of the greatest heros of the French Resistance, a N.Z/Australian who became the most wanted agent of the Gestapo & nick~named the white mouse for her ability to avoid capture. Nancy Wake.
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I first learnt about Nancy Wake when I read her biography in high school & I have never forgotten it, perhaps because I am not at all war~like myself & a woman doing what Nancy did, in the way she did it in the best larrikin tradition, really caught my imagination. She was as cool as a cucumber, even when interrogated by the Gestapo, & years later, when asked by an interviewer, declared she had never been frightened in her life! Never? Really?

The youngest of 6 children, her father abandoned his family shortly after they arrived in Australia, returning to N.Z to make a film & just disappearing from their lives. Nancy's mother was strict in her religion; Nancy was independent & rebellious. By 16 she'd had enough & fled, becoming a nurse before heading overseas to New York & finally London. She became a reporter & travelled Europe & even interviewed Hitler himself but it was while in Germany she saw first hand the inhumanity the NAZIs dished out to the Jews & swore that if she was ever in a position to be able to do something, then she would. I'd say she kept that promise.

In 1939 she married the love of her life, French industrialist Henry Fiocca. Six month later The Germans invaded France & Nancy became a courier for the embryonic French resistance movement. She probably helped over 1 000 escaped prisoners & downed airmen escape down one of the many underground railways. Beautiful & privileged she was able to move about the country in ways that few others could but eventually she came under suspicion & fled the country. Her husband stayed & was eventually captured, tortured & killed in the Gestapos efforts to locate his wife.

It took Nancy 6 attempts to cross into Spain & then into England & she was caught & interrogated for 4 days by the French milice on one of those attempts. She became one of 39 women in the French section of the British SOE & was parachuted back into France in April 1944 to help organise the resistance for D~Day. She led 7 000 resistance fighters in acts of sabotage & guerrilla warfare ~ which explains the opening quote. She was one feisty woman, who led the men she commanded & was quite capable of slitting a guard's throat to ensure he did not give the alarm. Nancy's section, the Auvergne , gave the Reich more headaches than any other & eventually the Germans massed 22 000 troops to obliterate the 7000 maquis. They escaped, damaging Germany for a cost of 1 400 lives for just 100 of their own.

At one point the Germans were so desperate to catch the irrepressible Nancy they put a reward of 5 million francs on her head. Despite this Nancy survived & is the most decorated woman of the war. When she dies, yep, she's still alive & kicking, she wishes to be cremated & her ashes spread over the hills she fought to free & where so many of her comrades perished. She is an amazing woman.

15 comments:

seekingmyLord said...

Thank you! It is always a pleasure to read your posts regarding history! There are so many very special people in history that I don't know about. How can one know them all really?

Ruby said...

Agreed, she is a very interesting character forever in my mind looking like Noni!

joyfulmum said...

wow! she definitely sounds interesting, I would so much have loved to have had you for a history teacher instead of the ones I had:( it was my most boring subject at school!!!

Ganeida said...

Seeking: It is a pleasure to find someone who enjoys my random rants. ☺

lol Ruby: She must have been standard fare at one time.

Rosemary: don't think my Star would agree with you ☺ but I found school history boring too. Too much politics, too little about real people. I liked it more when I learnt stuff on my own.

Ruby said...

Hmm..begging your pardon. I definately had Noni Hazlehust's face for Nancy. On googling it seems I have it confused? (You knew I would have to track it down didn't you? Up way past my bed time tracing secret agents :-)

Ganeida said...

Ruby: you're a scream! Honestly! Did you seriously think I wouldn't check before posting? OK, so I've been known to screw up badly but this time I knew because I've always thought she was very Mata Hari~ish ~ stunningly gorgeous & too sexy to live!

Ruby said...

Okay, I went to bed ....
I closed my eyes and all I could see is the face of Noni H playing Nancy Wake. So here I am 11.10pm. It took me a couple more entries but I found it:
Noni has won two Logies (Best Supporting Actress in a Mini-series for Waterfront and Best Supporting Actress in a Mini-series for Ride On Stranger) and been praised for her roles in ABC’s Logie award-winning Curtin, Stepfather of The Bride, Waiting at the Royal, Twisted Tales, Clowning Around, Nancy Wake, The Shiralee and Weekly’s War – just to name a few.

:-)

Persuaded said...

Wow, she was really was/is one amazing woman. But never to have felt frightened? I'm wondering if that might have been some marvelous kinda brain damage or something8-} Now I am hot to find a biography of this woman... and to think I never even heard of her!

Anonymous said...

Has Star read Schindler's Ark (or Schindler's List as it seems to have been renamed)? Deals with WWII resistance of a sort. I've never read it (Thomas Keneally's writing annnoys me) but the film is very moving.

Siano

Ganeida said...

Ruby: Thanks for that. ☺ I see why Noni got to play Nancy but I don't think she has quite got the same sort of *da bomb!* sex appeal. lol

Persuaded: She wrote her autobiography & a google on~line will turn it up at Amazon but be warned. Nancy never was a shrinking daisy & her language is very forthright & some of the quotes I turned up I couldn't possibly use on my blog though I thought they were hilarious. Just so you know. ☺

Siano: Aren't you meant to be in Wales? We have watched the movie Schindler's List [we discussed his work in her paper briefly] but I can't read Keneally. He irritates me. Pompous. Verbose. Drier than sawdust ~ which is a shame as his subject matter is often interesting but I think he's an apalling writer. Which begs the question, what am I doing with a BtLit.

Ruby said...

We think of Noni as motherly ~ after all those years on Playskool!!!!

Jo said...

I love reading books about men and women who did amazing things during the war and I have read a couple on the Resistance movement.

I often wonder if I would have the courage they had - did they have this strength before the war, or survival brings out the courage and strength one needs.

Ganeida said...

Ruby: Too true.

Jo: Me too ~ but I know I'm not like that. I'd be shot first time out. Cool I am not. I think Nancy was just like that. Without the war she would probably have fritted away her life.

Anonymous said...

You are doing the same thing with a B Lit as I am, and supporting my right to have one, as we share the same view of Kenneally :-)

I was in Wales; yes indeedy (though that comment was sent from Singapore). My body got back on Sunday. My mind has yet to arrive... I will communicate about it when mind and body are back in synch.

Siano

Anonymous said...

Actually, my comment was sent from England. Totally useless bit of information -- just want to get my chronology straight...

Siano