France: World War II Disastrous Allied Raid Had the 'Angel of Dieppe' Sister Agnes Valois Cared for 2000 Wounded & Dying Canadians
4-21-18, WashPost -- Sister Agnes-Marie Valois, a French Catholic nun who became known as the “Angel of Dieppe” as she cared for nearly 2,000 wounded Canadian soldiers after a disastrous Allied raid along the French coast during World War II, died April 19, 2018 at a monastery near Dieppe, France. She was 103; a member of the Augustinian order of nuns, was trained as a nurse and worked with the French military and in surgical wards before the war.
In 1942 'Operation 'ubilee' was launched by Allied forces from England. Northern France was under German control and was considered occupied territory. The plan was for commando raids inside France by landing troops on the rocky Normandy shoreline near Dieppe. Of more than 6,000 soldiers who stormed the shore at Dieppe, almost 5,000 were from Canada. It was an utter debacle.
The assault was over within a few hours. More than 900 Canadians were killed, along with about 100 Britons. Almost 2,000 Canadian soldiers were taken prisoner, many of them suffering grievous wounds. Sister Agnes would care for almost all of them. At the time of the attack, she was on duty at a hospital in Rouen, about 40 miles from Dieppe. She and 10 other Augustinian nurses were charged with looking after the wounded.
Many of the Canadian soldiers greeted Sister Agnes in French, angering the German captors. When she was ordered to treat wounded Germans first, she defiantly refused, saying it was her duty to minister to all. A retired Canadian army officer Hardy Wheeler said:
“She is known for standing up to the German soldiers. They held a gun up to her to treat the German injured first, but she just looked at everyone as equal — regardless of rank, regardless of nation, regardless of who or what you are. Some Canadian soldiers recalled that a German was about to execute a wounded comrade when Sister Agnes stepped between them, saying the bullet would have to pass through her first."
Years later she recalled one soldier asked her ... "Would you kiss me like my mother?" She complied and he died soon afterward.
Of the memories the Canadians had of the ill-fated amphibious assault, Sister Agnes soon became known as the “Angel of Dieppe.”
When asked to describe what the Canadians had endured, she said,
“It wasn’t war, it was a massacre.”
Agnes Cecile Marie-Madeleine Valois was born June 30, 1914, in Rouen, where her family had a rope-manufacturing business. She joined the Augustinian order and began training as a nurse in 1936.
Dieppe contains several memorials to the 1942 raid, and the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery is the final resting place of more than 700 Canadians. More here
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