For more than 100 years our supporters’ generous gifts have helped us adapt to meet the changing needs of veterans and their partners. This month we remember Nancy Wake, a past resident of our Richmond Home and one of the most highly decorated servicewomen of WWII, known by many as the White Mouse.
Nancy, the youngest of six children, was born in New Zealand and raised in Australia. At 16 she sailed to London to study journalism before moving to Paris. She was married to a wealthy Frenchman and living in Marseille when France fell to the Nazis. She joined the French Resistance and later the Special Operations Executive, where she undertook several dangerous missions in the run up to D-Day.
On one occasion, shortly after a major attack by the Germans, Nancy biked more than 200km to make contact with an operative in London. She remained one of the Allies’ most distinguished servicewomen during the war.
Nancy moved back to London after the liberation of France and was awarded the George Medal and several other awards. She went on to marry an RAF bomber pilot called John Forward before settling in Australia for a time until John’s death. Here she branched into politics and stood as the Liberal Party candidate in the 1960s.
Nancy lived with us at our Richmond Home from 2003 until her own death in 2011. She was much loved and popular amongst staff and residents who still recall the wonderful stories she shared. At the Home she enjoyed a wide range of events and activities, particularly Music Club on Tuesday evenings, and she continued to enjoy a good party.
Her biography was published in 1985 and is said to have inspired the novel, Charlotte Gray – later made into a film.
Nancy’s cousin, Shona Clunie, travelled across Europe this summer from New Zealand retracing Nancy’s steps visiting some of the places she lived and frequented, leaving a knitted white mouse in Nancy’s honour.
Shona told us “My sister Glenis and I visited The Stafford Hotel. The concierge, Alex, was most welcoming along with the doorman. We explained who we were and why we had stopped by the hotel. We were thrilled to be welcomed in and shown the American Bar where she would have a drink most evenings.”
Nancy would have celebrated her 111th birthday in August. In accordance with her wishes, Nancy’s ashes were scattered near the village of Verneix in France in March 2013.
Gifts in Wills allow us to help brave veteran residents such as Nancy live happy fulfilling lives long after their adventures are over. To find out more, please click here.