‘Angel of Dieppe’ celebrates 100th birthday

Cllr Steve Saunders presents the painting of Newhaven.
Cllr Steve Saunders presents the painting of Newhaven.

Newhaven Town Council was invited to France to celebrate the 100th birthday of the ‘Angel of Dieppe’ last weekend.

Sister Agnes-Marie Valois was a nurse during the Dieppe Raid where she cared for wounded Canadian and Allied troops in hospital.

She earned the nickname as she walked through the battlefield, checking the corpses for unconscious and injured soldiers, sometimes standing up to the Nazis to prevent executions.

Amongst the guests at her birthday celebrations on Sunday July 6 was town councillor Steve Saunders who said: “I defy anyone not to believe in angels after meeting this woman, who is so full of kindness, humility and compassion.”

Sister Agnes stood between a wounded Canadian soldier who was about to be shot again by a German soldier, telling him he would have to shoot her first if he wanted to kill the Canadian.

“It wasn’t war” she said, “It was a massacre.”

At the Hotel Dieu, Sister Agnes-Marie Valois cared for the wounded who were taken as prisoners of war and held in Rouen, France.

She worked tirelessly, despite the risk of reprisal from the Germans, who posed a threat to her and her nursing colleagues.

The sister 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 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 where speeches were made in her honour.

Cllr Saunders brought presents for Sister Agnes-Marie, which included a painting by a local artist of Newhaven Harbour.