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Ex-AP Reporter Barbara Wace Dies at 95

January 22, 2003

LONDON (AP) _ Barbara Wace, a former Associated Press reporter who was one of the few female journalists to cover World War II from the European battlefields, has died. She was 95.

Wace died Jan. 16 in London, her family said.

Wace went to France in July 1944, a month after the D-Day landings _ a time when news organizations rarely assigned women to war reporting.

In August 1944, she was heading for newly liberated Paris when her editor diverted her to the port of Brest, where a German garrison of 38,000, cornered in the village and hiding in concrete submarine bunkers, was holding off 80,000 American troops.

``I was relieved at Brest just before it was taken. By a man. His name went on the story,″ she recalled in 1995.

But Wace did have the final word when German forces holding the submarine base surrendered after a 46-day American siege. Wace _ who had lost the bedroll containing her clothes _ sent a telegram to the AP bureau in London: ``Skirt Lost, Brest Fallen.″

Wace was born in Gillingham, Kent, in 1907, the daughter of a senior army officer. She worked at the British embassy in prewar Germany and, beginning in 1940, at British missions in Washington, New York and San Francisco.

She returned to Britain in 1942, initially intending to help the war effort by working in a factory. Instead, she became an AP reporter, covering the war from London.

The AP brought in an American female reporter to accompany a Women’s Army Corps contingent heading for Normandy a month after the D-Day landings.

But when the big night arrived, Wace recalled 50 years later, ``She didn’t answer her phone. They couldn’t tell you ahead. They rang her up to get her and she didn’t answer the phone.

``I happened to be in. I went and got my uniform at the quartermaster’s at half past 11 at night and I was gone by two in the morning. It was just pure luck. I might have been out, too.″

In France, she recalled, ``I wrote all the stories I could possibly write about 30 serious girls. And then I managed to escape.″

Wace then reported on newly liberated French villages and on Germany in defeat.

Leaving AP after the war, Wace was a freelance writer and photographer until her 80s, traveling the world from Oman to Mongolia.

She is survived by her sister, Daphne. A funeral will be held Jan. 27 at St. Bride’s Church _ the traditional ``journalists’ church″ _ on London’s Fleet Street.

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