Agnes-Marie Valois, who was called “the white angel” by Canadian soldiers she saved during one of the worst military setbacks for Allied forces during World War II, has died at the age of 103, it was announced Saturday.
She died Thursday at a monastery, where she was living in retirement, in the northern French town of Dieppe.
On August 19, 1942 a 6,000-strong force of mostly Canadian but also British troops briefly seized Dieppe, the Channel port held by the Germans. But the Allied troops were outmanned and outgunned by their German enemy.
Within six hours they were forced to retreat as more than 1,000 allied soldiers were killed, hundreds more injured and over 2,000 taken prisoner.
Valois treated the injured, stood up to Nazi soldiers, even persuaded German officials to tend to some of the wounded and stole German rations to feed the Allied troops.
For this she subsequently received France’s highest accolade — the Legion of Honor.
Valois frequently took part in annual commemorations of the battle, where she was reunited with the men she helped save.
“They loved her and she loved them. Whenever she met what she called ‘my Canadians’ she had a great big smile on her face,” Tim Fletcher, a retired captain with Canada’s Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, told the National Post newspaper.
The raid, codenamed Operation Jubilee, was the first time the Canadian army had engaged in the European theatre of the war.
The episode has become enshrined in Canadian history as an act of great bravery against overwhelming odds.
Valois was born in 1914 in the French city of Rouen, about 35 miles south of Dieppe. She came from a family of industrialists but she trained as a nurse with the Red Cross before joining the Augustine order in 1936.
Dieppe Mayor Nicolas Langlois said Valois would be remembered by the town, as well as by Canada, as a heroine.
Langlois said flags have been put at half-mast in the city to honor “a great lady of our history.”
This article was originally published on DW.com. Its content is created separately from USA TODAY.
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