Saturday, October 26, 2013

Nancy Wake and Three Femme Fatales of the Free French - 28mm WWII Female Partisans

Nancy Wake is perhaps one of the most famous partisans who served in occupied France during the Second World War. Not French herself, Wake was in fact a New Zealander, raised in Australia, who became an agent of Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE) after running her own operations in Marseilles earlier in the war. 

Nancy Wake - the 'White Mouse' of Auvergne
By 1943 the Gestapo considered Wake (whom they called the 'White Mouse') to be their most wanted person and had a 5-million franc bounty on her head. She ran a Maquis unit in the Auvergne, which she helped raise to an amazing 7,500 under arms. From April 1944 to the final liberation of France her force tied down approximately 22,000 SS personnel, inflicting over 1,400 casualties while only taking around 100 themselves. For her service Wake was awarded: the Croix de Guerre, Officer de la Legion d'Honneur, the Medal of Freedom (USA), the George Medal (UK), the RSA Badge in Gold (NZ) and the Companion of the Order of Australia. She died in the UK in 2011, aged 98. At her request, her ashes were spread in the same area of France where she had fought with the resistance.

Ms. Wake later in life.
Inspired by Wake's story I decided to paint a series of female partizans for my 28mm collection. Two of the castings, the gal with the shotgun and the other sporting the Browning automatic, are from Copplestone's 'Gangsters' range. While technically designed for Prohibition era America I found their clothing close enough to 1940s fashion to fit the bill. The other two women, armed with the Sten SMGs, are from Artizan miniatures' fine WWII range. 

Of the group, I quite like the pose of the girl with the Browning automatic - a lot of pent-up rage there. 

A counterpoint to her is the lass with the pump shotgun - she's a bit more restrained and matter-of-fact, I think. 

For the blonde waitress I wanted her base to look as if she were in a French cafe so I made a rug with a bit of milliput and painted-in a black-and-white chequer tile floor.

The final figure seems to capture the proud, war-weary Nancy Wake. She is slightly stooped and weatherbeaten, but holds her Sten with a certain grim confidence. 

I had a lot of fun working on this group. Not sure what I'll do with them yet. Perhaps use them in some kind of 'Top Secret RPG' scenario set in Vichy France.

Next for this project will be some corresponding beret-wearing lads, with smouldering gauloises, striped t-shirts and vicious looking accordions.