Sister Agnès-Marie Valois known as the « white angel » by the Canadians she had treated, following the bloody Dieppe raid in Normandy during the Second World War, died Thursday according to the Dieppe municipal authorities. She was 103 years old.
She was born Agnès Valois at Rouen in 1914 into an industrial family. She studied at the Red Cross to be a nurse and became a nun in 1936 with the Order of the Augustines de la miséricorde de Jésus.
At the time of the Dieppe landing on August 19, 1942, she was a nurse at the Rouen Hôtel-Dieu hospital which was under the thumb of the Germans. Hundreds of wounded soldiers part of the Jubilee operation of the Allied arrived at that location.
The raid was intended to weaken the German infrastructures on the french coast prior to move on to England. The operation was a deadly failure, Some 6,000 men were involved consisting of 5,000 Canadians and 1,000 British soldiers. More than a thousand were killed and two thousand were made war prisoners.
At the hospital, sister Agnès-Marie Valois, took care of the wounded soldiers with dedication and courage like other nuns were caring regardless of the danger it represented with the Germans, not too keen on supplying medical attention to soldiers who had just made a commando operation against them.
Alot of anecdotes are remembered of the terrible evening and following days. Sister Agnès-Marie was able to convince a german ophtalmologist to treat a soldier who loosing his eyesight, she save the life of another one badly wounded by discouraging an ennemy soldier to finish him off. She kept operating to heal the soldiers, under German threats and violence, to the point of even stealing goodies from the german reserves for the wounded soldiers.
Siste Agnès-Marie was decorated of the National Order of Merit, she obtained the Medal of Meritorious Service and the rank of Knight and Officer of the Legion of Honor.
She relocated to the Thibermont monastery at Martin-Église near Dieppe in 1968 when the Hôtel-Dieu Hospital of Rouen was closed. She pursued providing health care as a nurse at the Dieppe hospital until her retirement in 1979.
Sister Agnès-Marie took part of several raid commemorations of the August 19, 1942. She was able to meet numerous persons she took care of during the war. The mayor Nicolas Langlois of Dieppe made a statement to the effect that she represented for the canadian nation as well as for the Dieppe community a personality apart, a symbolic and particularly endearing heroine.
Dieppe, which has celebrated its centennial in 2004, put all its flags at half-mast and willpay her a solemn tribute on Tuesday at the Vertus cemetery where the majority of the Canadian victims of the 1942 raid rest.
Thank you to our cousin of Normandy, Marie-Andrée Rouault, for having informed me of this new.