When I think of some of the civilian heroes of our wars, I find myself amazed at the many courageous acts they carried out. They threw caution to the wind and moved about among the enemy, somehow managing to remain almost invisible. They had code names and secret pasts that no one knew about, not even the people they worked with…and definitely not the enemy they worked against.
One of these spies was Nancy Grace Augusta Wake, who was also known by her married name, Nancy Fiocca. Wake was a New Zealand-born nurse and journalist, who joined the French Resistance and later the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during World War II. Born August 30, 1912 in Roseneath, Wellington, New Zealand, the youngest of the six children of Charles Augustus Wake and Ella Rosieur Wake. In 1914, the family moved to Australia and settled at North Sydney. Shortly thereafter, Wake’s father returned to New Zealand and her mother raised the children. In Sydney, Wake attended the North Sydney Household Arts (Home Science) School.
At the age of 16, she ran away from home and worked as a nurse. With £200 (about $255.27) that she had inherited from an aunt, she traveled to New York City, then London where she trained herself as a journalist. In the 1930s, she worked in Paris and later for Hearst newspapers as a European correspondent. She witnessed the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement and “saw roving Nazi gangs randomly beating Jewish men and women in the streets” of Vienna. The Nazi movement repulsed her.
In 1937, Wake met wealthy French industrialist Henri Edmond Fiocca, whom she married on November 30, 1939. They were living in Marseille, France when Germany invaded. During the war in France, Wake served as an ambulance driver. After the fall of France in 1940, she joined the French Resistance, working in the escape network of Captain Ian Garrow, which became the Pat O’Leary Line. Wake had an incredible ability to elude capture, which earned her the nickname, “White Mouse” by the Gestapo. The Resistance exercised caution with her missions, because her life was in constant danger. The Gestapo tapped her telephone and intercepted her mail. In spite of the danger, Wake said, “I don’t see why we women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas.” As a member of the escape network, she helped Allied airmen evade capture by the Germans and escape to neutral Spain.
In November 1942, Wehrmacht troops occupied the southern part of France after the Allies’ Operation Torch had started. This gave the Germans and the Gestapo unrestricted access to all parts of Vichy France and made life more dangerous for Wake. When the network was betrayed that same year she decided to flee France. Her husband, Henri Fiocca, stayed behind. He later was captured, tortured, and executed by the Gestapo. She threw caution to the wind. She would “doll” herself up and be very flirtatious, almost daring them to search her. She took a chance, and they couldn’t see past her façade to the ruthless spy beneath the beauty she showed on the outside.
In 1943, when the Germans became aware of her, she escaped to Spain and continued on to the United Kingdom. After reaching Britain, Wake joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE) under the code name Hélène. On April 29-30, 1944 as a member of a three person SOE team code-named “Freelance,” Wake parachuted into the Allier department of occupied France to liaise between the SOE and several Maquis groups in the Auvergne region, which were loosely overseen by Emile Coulaudon (code name “Gaspard”). She participated in a battle between the Maquis and a large German force in June 1944. In the aftermath of the battle, she bicycled 500 kilometers to send a situation report to SOE in London. In early 1943, in the process of getting out of France, Wake was picked up with a whole trainload of people and was arrested in Toulouse, but was released four days later. The head of the O’Leary Line, Albert Guérisse, managed to have her released by claiming she was his mistress and was trying to conceal her infidelity to her husband (all of which was untrue). She succeeded in crossing the Pyrenees to Spain. Until the war ended, she was unaware of her husband’s death, and she subsequently blamed herself for it. Wake was a recipient of the George Medal from the United Kingdom, the Medal of Freedom from the United States, the Legion of Honor from France, and medals from Australia and New Zealand.
In 1985, Wake published her autobiography, “The White Mouse.” Later, after 40 years of marriage, her second husband John Forward died at Port Macquarie on 19 August 1997. The couple had no children. Wake sold her medals to fund herself saying, “There was no point in keeping them, I’ll probably go to hell and they’d melt anyway.” Strangely, this disregard of the value of war medals, seemed common among the war spies. In 2001, Wake left Australia for the last time and emigrated to London. She became a resident at the Stafford Hotel in Saint James’ Place, near Piccadilly, formerly a British and American forces club during the war. She had been introduced to her first “bloody good drink” there by Louis Burdet, the general manager at the time, who had also worked for the Resistance in Marseille. Mornings usually found Wake in the hotel bar, sipping her first gin and tonic of the day. She was welcomed at the hotel, celebrating her ninetieth birthday there. Out of deep respect for her, the hotel owners absorbed most of the costs of her stay. In 2003, Wake chose to move to the Royal Star and Garter Home for Disabled Ex-Service Men and Women, in Richmond, London, where she remained until her death on Sunday evening August 7, 2011, aged 98, at Kingston Hospital, where she had been admitted with a chest infection. She had requested that her ashes be scattered at Montluçon in central France. Her ashes were scattered near the village of Verneix, which is near Montluçon, on March 11, 2013.
The Gallipoli campaign took place between April 1915 and December 1915 in an effort to take the Dardanelles from the Turkish Ottoman Empire…an ally of Germany and Austria, and thus force it out of the war. About 60,000 Australians and 18,000 New Zealanders were part of a larger British force. Among the wounded were some 26,000 Australians and 7,571 New Zealanders, while 7,594 Australians and 2,431 New Zealanders were killed. Numerically, Gallipoli was a minor campaign, but it took on considerable national and personal importance to the Australians and New Zealanders who fought there.
The Gallipoli Campaign was Australia’s and New Zealand’s introduction to the Great War. Many Australians and New Zealanders fought on the Peninsula from the day of the landings (April 25, 1915) until the evacuation on December 20, 1915. The 25th April is the New Zealand equivalent of Armistice Day and is marked as the ANZAC day in both countries with Dawn Parades and other services in every city and town. Shops are closed in the morning. It is a very important day to Australians and New Zealanders for a variety of reasons that have changed and transmuted over the years. This campaign, while small in losses, was huge in the hearts of the Australians and New Zealanders.
While many losses came out of this campaign, it seems that there were two who were saved…potentially anyway. After the campaign was over, and people were wandering the area, someone came across an unusual, and seriously rare, find. There on the ground were two bullets that had collided with each other in mid-air, thus saving the lives of the two combatants who fired the rounds. Obviously, they could have been hit by another round, in which case the mid-air collision only slightly prolonged their lives. At least this scenario might be what you would think. The reality is that you would be wrong. Taking a look closer at the bullets, it is quite obvious that one round collided with another. But the round on the left doesn’t have any rifling on it, whereas the round on the right does. They collided, but in reality, the round on the left probably wasn’t moving as fast as an actual speeding bullet. Maybe it was part of a clip on an ANZAC soldiers webgear as he was in an attack, or some other bizarre reason. But this most certainly wasn’t the intersection of two trajectories between the lines…making such a collision between two bullets even more rare. Nevertheless, the picture itself is quite interesting, and would have caught the eye of anyone looking at it. How they got there really makes no difference, but the fact that they were found on the Gallipoli battlefield makes them an interesting find. If you ask me, it is still a very rare occurrence.
My sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely is a complex woman, who leads a busy life. She is an obstetrics nurse by trade, but that is just her career, albeit a very satisfying one for her. Jennifer knew when she was just 17 years old, that she wanted to be a nurse, and before long, she knew that she wanted to help bring life into the world. She has never changed her mind about that, and has been a nurse at Wyoming Medical Center for about 36 years now. That adds up to a whole lot of babies who can say that Jennifer was there the day they were born. She was the nurse who assisted in the births of all four of my grandchildren. It was very comforting to have her there.
While nursing is Jennifer’s career, exercise is her passion. She loves all forms of exercise, both indoor and outdoor. I think that like many of us in the family, she loves to hike. She takes trips to different areas to hike. She has been to New Zealand, Colorado, and today, she and her boyfriend, Bryan are on their way to Arizona to do some hiking there. She hiked a mountain with Bryan a while back in Colorado that was 14,000 feet high. That is an amazing feat for anyone. I have done quite a bit of hiking, but I have never gone to that altitude, so I am curious about how I would do. Jennifer and Brian did very well, but they saw people around them who were having some difficulty breathing deeply. I suppose it all depends on the shape you are in and the lung capacity you have. I don’t know where in Arizona they plan to go hiking, but since I have been in Arizona a number of times and hiked there too, I would absolutely recommend the Grand Canyon. We didn’t hike very far in, but the areas we were in were amazing. The next time I go, I want to hike down to the river. I know that wherever they hike, they will have a great time.
In many ways, Jennifer’s love of all things healthy has made her not only a nurse helping to bring life into the world, but also a person keeping her own life as strong and healthy as it can be. It’s a great way to live and one that will keep Jennifer, the grandma, in the lives of her three little grandchildren, Reagan, Hattie, and Bowen Parmely, for a long time to come. Today is Jennifer’s birthday. Happy birthday Jennifer!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
It’s been a fast year in the royal family. Little Prince George has wowed everyone he met. He is a sweet little boy who’s parents’ hands on style has proven to be pretty perfect for bringing up a happy and well mannered little prince. Every time I see his little smile I have to smile too. He is just so cute. We all knew that his handsome parents would produce a handsome little boy, and we were not disappointed. Prince George did not come home to the palace after his birth, but rather went to visit he mother’s family for a time…a very unusual event, and one that the royals really didn’t like. I suppose that like all grandparents, they worried, but this family worried about Prince George’s safety. He was, after all, a very famous boy…even before he was born, and that makes for possible threats to his safety. Nevertheless, while security was high outside, the family had their privacy inside.
Prince George is already a world traveler, having traveled to New Zealand and Australia with his parents at just 9 months of age…one of the youngest princes to travel abroad. Something that not everyone can say they did in their first year, but then Prince George is a special boy. He is the future king of England, behind his grandfather and his dad. He has many things to learn, and there is no time like the present to begin. He will be expected to act in a certain way, and smile even when he doesn’t feel like it. He will be expected to be at least tolerant of
the press, and if he is like his parents, he will do so with winning style. He will host many events himself, such as the opportunity he had recently, to have a play dates with some children at the residence of the Queen…who was away at the time. Not everyone could get away with that, but then Prince George holds a special place in the heart of the Queen. I don’t say he could get away with just anything with her, but maybe more than most kids could.
While he is still a baby, Prince George will soon have royal obligations like all the other royal family members. When you are a royal, people expect you to make appearances at different has a lot learn, but he has a while for that yet. Right now, all Prince George needs to do is show us the cute little faces he makes, and we’ll be satisfied. It’s always a bit sad to realize that before we know it Prince George…like all babies with grow up and those baby days will be long gone, but for now, we can enjoy his smiley face for a little while longer. In the years to come, Prince George will be an integral part of the royal family and their face to the world, but for now, he is very much a little boy, and I hope he gets some time to be just a little boy. Happy 1st birthday Prince George…my 18th cousin twice removed!!
My sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely, loves to hike. That is something Bob and I can totally relate to. There is just something wonderful about being on a trail in the woods, listening to the birds singing and seeing the beauty of the green trees. Most hikers like to find trails wherever they travel, and Jennifer, Bob and I are no exception. Jennifer has hiked many of the usual places around Casper, like the Bridle Trail on the mountain, and of course, the Platte River Parkway, but she has also hiked places in Colorado, and as far away as New Zealand. Now that would be my kind of hiking trip to take.
Jennifer’s love of hiking came about when she decided to get into better shape, and it is really all part of a package of things she does to stay in great shape. She skis, runs, hikes, and bikes for exercise. With a broad range of activities that she likes, she doesn’t have to go to the gym to workout, although she might do that too, for all I know. Many people would call Jennifer an exercise fanatic, and I suppose they would be right, but if you want to be in good shape, you have to do what it takes to get to that place.
Jennifer is an Obstetrics Nurse, working with mothers in labor, and in the nursery with their babies. It is a job that started when she became a candy stripper at the young age of 17 years, and one that she does very well. My girls, Corrie and Amy, and I have been very glad to have her there when the time came for their babies to arrive. She is very good at her job, and has a very calming effect on a young mother who is a little apprehensive about the impending birth of their child. Having a baby is no easy task, and when you have a nurse there who is so confident and capable, it makes the process much easier. Her hours are long, but the nice thing is that she doesn’t have to work as many days a week to get her hours in…something all of us might have liked to do, at one time or another.
Then, as if her life isn’t packed full of activities, Jennifer also takes piano lessons, and spends time practicing the piano. I suppose you would call this a well rounded life, and of course, you would be right. I think her activity filled life really started when she decided to get into shape all those years ago. You can’t have such a busy life, if you are too tired to get out there and just do it. Jennifer has proven that if you are determined, you can get back to good shape and you can do all the activities you want to. You just have to go for it. Today is Jennifer’s birthday, Happy birthday Jennifer!! Have a great day!! We love you!!