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Memorial Tribute to the late Nancy Wake, Canberra

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Memorial T rib ute to th e late Nanc yWake, Canb erra

TUE 20 MARCH 2012

Prime Minister

We gather in a spirit of commemoration and of celebration.

Commemoration because the vivid light which was the life of Nancy Wake has been extinguished.

B ut celebration because that life has such lasting significance for the people of the nations represented here today and, indeed, for the wider cause of freedom.

We remember a moment, decisive in history, when the world stood in dire peril, and exceptional men and women rose up to meet that challenge.

Nancy Wake holds a foremost place in their ranks.

It is commonplace now to call them “ the greatest generation” .

B ut Tom B rokaw’s characterisation is so favoured and repeated because it is so true.

They were the children of one world war, raised in the midst of privation and unease, who were forced to face another war that became the most dreadful conflict in human history.

These were dark days for Europe; the very darkest.

In 1940, France and the Low Countries were smashed as the German forces swept all before them.

In his historic radio address, General De Gaulle asked three defiant questions:

"Has the last word been said?

“ Must hope disappear?

“ Is defeat final? ”

The response in many freedom-loving hearts was a resounding no. No to each of these questions, no to them all.

Nancy Wake was one who gave the same courageous answer and kept the “ flame of resistance”alive.

B ut in her case, it didn’t need to be that way.

Nancy was young, she was wealthy, she was beautiful.

She could have escaped or melted into the civilian population, living out the war in quiet obscurity without reproach.

B ut from the first days of the Occupation, Nancy knew this was not a time for reticence or self-regard.

She gave all and she risked all.

Never was a cause better or more faithfully served.

Nancy Wake’s remarkable career as a spy and saboteur has been well documented in Peter’s book and many other sources.

Her deeds and character were showered with honours richly deserved.

And Nancy’s own long life allowed her to receive in full measure the affection and respect that was so completely her due.

Now, months after her passing, when so many wise and insightful words have been written and spoken, what is still left to be said?

For me, speaking on behalf of the nation and also expressing the feelings of my own heart, it can be summed-up in one word:


Gratitude that when history’s greatest summons came, Nancy and millions like her were ready to answer the call.

Gratitude for Nancy’s life and her achievements.

And so we gather here, in this People’s House, and in this distinguished company to say goodbye to Nancy Wake one last time.

She risked her life for months and years, and yet was spared.

Now old age has done what Naz i bullets could do, and Nancy Wake has gone from our midst.

B ut like all of her comrades, who fill honour rolls and cemeteries in five continents, her deeds will endure.

Her memory will not perish.

And her name will live among the valiant forever.

Page 1 of 1 Memorial Tribute to the late NancyW ake,Canberra | Prime Minister of Australia