The Fanny Fridays on their bikes for health and heroine
Inspired by Second World War Australian resistance heroine Nancy Wake AC GM, female veterans from the Limestone Coast are getting on their bikes to raise the profile of female veterans and support each other post ADF service.
On recent bike rides, the small group of riders, who call themselves “The Fanny Fridays” have pedalled up to 150kms to train for a 500km ride in France next year.
Organiser Liz Wheeler, a Veteran Wellbeing Advocate at the Limestone Coast Veterans’ Hub, says the activity was a great way to engage with different parts of the broader veterans’ family and to build comradery among participants, most whom come from relatively small regional communities.
‘Along the road we’ve had fantastic support from the Military Brotherhood Motor Cycle Club who helped us with safety as protective outriders, complete with cautionary signage on their bikes,’ says Liz.
‘We are also working closely with the Military Emergency Services Health Australia research project, which is exploring issues of women post ADF service, particularly in regional areas, resilience and the benefits of this challenge on older women’s health and wellbeing.’
Liz says the women have used their DVA White Cards to engage the support of an exercise physiologist, which had been very beneficial. The group has also benefited from a modest DVA Veteran Wellbeing Grant of $2,000 for safety and support equipment.
The group carries with them “Nancy”, a crocheted white mouse mascot which goes on their training rides and which will also go to France on the Nancy Wake Memorial ride in 2025.
The ride will take the group from Saint-Santin to Montluҫon before reaching Châteauroux and returning to Montluҫon, a distance of about 500kms. Along the way the riders will visit local schools to tell the Nancy Wake story.
Liz says The Friday Fannys were absolutely awed by the bravery and skill of their heroine. ‘Nancy was an incredible Australian who is an inspiration to us all,’ says Liz. ‘Celebrating her story is having a profoundly positive effect on our physical and mental health.’
For Fanny Fridays’ membership enquiries, contact Liz at the Limestone Coast Veterans’ Hub. Sponsors are also sought: nancywakememorialride [at] gmail.com.
Who was Nancy Wake?
Born in New Zealand born and raised in Australia, Nancy Wake became one of the Gestapo’s most wanted French Resistance operatives as a result of her courageous opposition to the German occupation. Dubbed the ‘White Mouse’ by the Germans, she famously cycled about 400 kilometres in 72 hours to organise replacement secret radio codes to maintain contact with the Special Operations Executive in London to allow vital resistance missions to continue. Nancy was one of the most highly decorated women of the Second World War. (Find out more on DVA’s Anzac Portal.)
Images, top to bottom:
The Fanny Fridays on their Kingston to Robe Ride, October 2023
The Nancy Wake Memorial Ride 2025 logo
The Fanny Fridays in Penola with the Military Brotherhood and Riding Team
Liz Wheeler in Kapooka during her training for the Australian Regular Army