100th BIRTHDAY OF A HEROINE OF THE DIEPPE RAID
July 7 2014.
Newhaven Town Councillor Steve Saunders attended the 100th birthday celebration of Sister Agnes-Marie Valois in Dieppe over the weekend, as representative of the Mayor of Newhaven. This remarkable woman was a 28 year-old nurse in France at the time of the raid. She earned a nickname on the beach, among the wounded. She became known as the “Angel of Dieppe” as she walked through the battlefield, checking the corpses for unconscious and injured soldiers.
It is said that on the day of the battle, Sister Agnes stood defiantly in front of a wounded Canadian soldier who was about to be shot again by a German soldier. Sister Agnes told the German soldier that if he was going to shoot the Canadian soldier, he was going to have to shoot her first. “It wasn’t war”, she said, “it was a massacre.”
At the Hotel Dieu in Rouen after the battle, Sister Agnes-Marie Valois cared for the wounded who were taken as prisoners of war. She worked tirelessly, despite the ongoing risk of reprisal from the German authorities, who posed a threat to her and her nursing colleagues.
For Canadians taken prisoner, Sister Valois was seen as a true angel of mercy. Young, hurt, and frightened, they were touched by the tender caring that she gave with grace, humanity and compassion. On several occasions, she courageously confronted the Germans to ensure that the wounded received the medical attention that they needed.
The Sister has received the Legion of Honour, is a Knight of the Order of Merit (France), has the Meritorious Service Medal (Canada) and received the keys to the city of Windsor in Canada.
The celebrations at the weekend began with a ceremony at Canada Square on the Dieppe seafront. Wreaths were laid by the Mayor of Dieppe, mayors of adjoining towns, veterans, a representative of the Canadian High Commission and Sister Agnes-Marie herself.
This was followed by a reception at the Hotel de Ville (The Town Hall), where speeches were made to honour her life. Sister Agnes-Marie listened intently to each and every one and often interrupted to make comments and thank everyone.
Councillor Saunders presented Sister Agnes-Marie with a gift of a painting of Newhaven Harbour by local artist Kristina Stedman together with goodwill messages from the Mayor of Newhaven, from the Lord Lieutenant and from the Royal British Legion.
Councillor Saunders said: “I was honoured to represent the people of Newhaven at the celebrations of the 100th birthday of Sister Agnes-Marie Valois. She is a remarkable woman who is admired by so many people around the world. Her courage and compassion during the Dieppe Raid, was beyond compare and we all owe her a debt of thanks that can never be repaid. She is an inspiration to us all.”