Childhood & Early Life
She was born on August 30, 1912, in Roseneath, Wellington, New Zealand, in to Charles Augustus Wake and Ella Wake as the youngest daughter of their six children. Her father was a journalist and editor.
In 1914 her family moved from New Zealand and settled at North Sydney, Australia. After a while her father went back to New Zealand leaving her mother with the responsibility of raising the children.
She joined the ‘North Sydney Household Arts (Home Science) School’ in Sydney. Around 1928 she left her home and landed up in rural New South Wales, where she took the job of a nurse. After a couple of years she came back to Sydney and worked in a shipping company.
Thereafter she travelled to New York and London with the £200 inheritance from her aunt and studied journalism in London. Thereafter she moved to Paris and worked as a freelance correspondent with the Hearst newspaper group. Her assignments include a 1933 interview of Adolf Hitler. She witnessed the atrocities of the Nazis that included thrashing Jews men and women in the streets of Vienna.
She was in Britain at the outbreak of the ‘Second World War’ but soon she returned to France and when Germany invaded the country she was living with her husband in Marseilles, France.
In no time she came forward to aid war victims by using her newly purchased vehicle as ambulance and also suppled goods to refugee camps.
By June 1940 France had to surrender to Germany that saw incapacitation of the French armed forces and abatement of its government. Wake joined the ‘French Resistance’ and worked as its messenger. She also became a member of Captain Ian Garrow’s escape network.
She was in constant lookout by the Gestapo who tapped her phone and blocked her mails. They named her ‘The White Mouse’ for her finesse in dodging them.
As the British-American invasion, ‘Operation Torch’ began, unified armed forces of Nazi Germany, ‘Wehrmacht’ conquered southern part of France in November 1942. With this the Nazis got free access to the documents of Vichy regime that put Wake’s life in greater danger.
Wake became the most wanted person by the ‘Gestapo’ by 1943. They put a price of 5 million franc on her head. After she managed to escape Marseilles, the Gestapo got hold of her husband Henri Fiocca, who was tortured and killed, which she came to know only after the war ended. She was arrested in Toulouse but released in a few days.
She moved to Spain after crossing the Pyrenees Mountains in the sixth attempt and later reached Britain where she became an agent of the ‘Special Operations Executive’. There she was trained in armed and unarmed combat, use of explosives, survival skills, surveillance, Morse Code and radio operation and night parachuting. She served the ‘First Aid Nursing Yeomanry’ as a captain.
In 1944, on the night of 29/30 April, she landed in Auvergne, a region in occupied France. She was designated the task of a liaison between the local maquis group operating from Forest of Tronçais, led by Captain Henri Tardivat, and London.
Aliased as Madame Andrée, she had the responsibility of taking care of finances of the group, allocation of weapons and equipment brought in through parachute and ensuring radio contact.
She played a key role in enlisting new members and preparing the group into a fierce force of around 7000 maquisards. The group under her leadership attacked enemy installations and also their local headquarter in Montluçon. They fought around 22,000 German soldiers that resulted in 1,400 casualties with only 100 on their side.
Once, when a German raid led to loss of radio codes threatening acquisition of supply drops, Wake covered a distance of over 500 km on a bicycle crossing several German checkpoints.
Post war, in 1946, she joined British Air Ministry’s ‘Intelligence Department’ that was linked with embassies in Paris and Prague, as an executive officer and later in 1948 she resigned and moved to Sydney.
In 1949 she contested the Australian federal election as a ‘Liberal Party’ member, representing the seat of Barton, but was defeated by the ‘Labor Party’ candidate Herbert Vere Evatt. She met the same fate during the 1951 election.
In 1951, following the election, she left Australia and moved to England and there she served the department of the Assistant Chief of Air Staff as an intelligence officer. Following her marriage with John Forward, a RAF officer, in December 1957 she resigned from the post and moved to Malta with him.
During early 1960 she returned to Australia and in 1966 she again stood as a ‘Liberal Party’ candidate in the federal election representing the Sydney seat of Kingsford Smith, but faced defeat.
In mid-1980s she and her husband retired to Port Macquarie in New South Wales. Her autobiography, ‘The White Mouse’ that became a bestseller was published in 1985.
In 2001 she left Australia for good and moved to London where she stayed in St James' Place, at the ‘Stafford Hotel.
In 2003 she moved to Richmond and stayed for the rest of her life at the ‘Royal Star and Garter Home for Disabled Ex-Service Men and Women’.
Personal Life & Legacy
On November 30, 1939, she married Henri Edmond Fiocca, an affluent French industrialist. They were issueless. Fiocca was captured and killed by Germans during the Second World War.
In December 1957, she married RAF officer John Forward.
She died on August 7, 2011. On March 11, 2013 her ashes were scattered near the Verneix village, near Montluçon according to her wish.