The “Angel of Dieppe,” a nun whose efforts in caring for wounded soldiers in World War II became legend, died Friday at age 103.
Sister Agnès-Marie Valois of Canada earned her legendary status as the Angel of Dieppe during the Battle of Dieppe on August 19, 1942. On that day, more than 3,000 of the approximately 6,100 troops, who tried to storm the French town of Dieppe, were killed or captured. Sister Agnès tended to the wounded on the beach and later at the Hôtel-Dieu. The courage with which she braved the battlefield to care for the wounded inspired several military legends, according to BBC.
A dying soldier asked Valois to kiss him like his mother would, she recounted in a 2010 interview. She did so, and he died shortly thereafter. When Sister Agnès saw a German officer about to shoot a wounded Allied soldier, she stood between them and told the German soldier he would have to kill her first, according to another legend. Sister Agnès went beyond the normal responsibilities of a nurse, as exemplified in her care for Sgt. André Michaud of Fusiliers Mont-Royal, who had to have his arm amputated.
“While I was preparing him for his amputation, André Michaud, then a young sergeant from the Fusiliers Mont-Royal, asked me what would happen to his arm. I told him not to worry, that I was going to take care of it myself. As soon as I could rest, I took it upon myself to pick up Sergeant Michaud’s arm in the container, and I went down to the garden, and with a shovel I buried it in the shade of a tree,” Sister Agnès said in 2010, according to Le Quebec Et Le Guerres Mondiales.
Sister Agnès treated all wounded no matter their nationality, but she had a special bond with Canadian troops, according to retired Canadian captain Tim Fletcher.
“They loved each other. They loved her and she loved them. Whenever she met what she called ‘my Canadians’ she had a great big smile on her face,” Fletcher told the National Post.
Sister Agnès was awarded the French National Order of Merit in 1992, knighted into the Legion of Honour in 1996, and earned Canada’s Meritorious Service Medal in 1998. She attended the commemoration of the Battle of Dieppe in the town of Dieppe every year until she started having health problems. The town of Dieppe flew flags at half mast in her honor on the day of her death.
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